Harkin Legislation Follows Release of HELP Committee Report on Barriers to Economic Success for People with Disabilities, Senator’s Last Hearing on Disability Rights
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a new report on an investigation he called for regarding the barriers that people with disabilities face as they seek to rise out of poverty and enter the middle class. To implement the recommendations made by the report, Harkin today also introduced three new bills as part of his “Access for All” agenda to help Americans with disabilities achieve economic independence and reach the middle class.
Today also marked Harkin’s final HELP Committee hearing on disability rights and the culmination of more than 40 years as the leading advocate for disability rights in Congress. He was the Senate author of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. In addition to negotiating and passing the ADA, he was responsible for numerous pieces of legislation that embedded the goals of the ADA throughout American policy in areas ranging from transportation to housing and education to health care. His commitment to fighting for equal rights for all Americans no matter their ability meant that people with disabilities were included when legislation was being drafted and that these individuals were part of the decision making process when laws were being implemented. His work ensured that “nothing about us without us” was not only a phrase, but also a principle by which disability policy was executed.
“Since we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have seen great progress in opening doors of opportunity previously closed to those with disabilities, but today’s report shows that there is more work to do,” Harkin said. “Today’s report makes clear that even as more people with disabilities seek to enter the workforce, there are still too many barriers preventing them from becoming economically independent. When these Americans are not part of the workforce, they are much more likely to be stuck in poverty with no way of getting ahead.
“To address the economic barriers Americans with disabilities still face, I am introducing three new bills as part of an ‘Access for All’ agenda to help them achieve the economic success necessary to be independent and lead full and fulfilling lives in their communities,” Harkin continued. “Protecting the rights of Americans with disabilities has been and continues to be one of my most important priorities and I look forward to moving these important measures forward. I am proud to have worked with so many great champions for people with disabilities and look forward to continuing this important work in the months and years ahead.”
To address the challenges identified by the report, Harkin introduced the following legislation:
The Universal Home Design Act would increase the availability of accessible housing for individuals with disabilities and would cover single family houses and townhouses (new construction). The legislation would:
The Accessible Transportation for All Act would expand access to accessible transportation options for individuals with disabilities. The legislation would:
The Exercise and Fitness for All Act would encourage exercise and fitness service providers to provide exercise and fitness equipment that is accessible to individuals with disabilities. The legislation would:
The findings of the Harkin HELP Committee investigation include: