I wrote to the Senators and Representatives from Oklahoma in October after I wrote this post. Several of the senators and representatives have responded. I received the response below in an email today. I appreciate that Senator Coburn took the time to respond so thoughtfully. His response makes sense to me and I’m glad that I took time to write when I did.
January 30, 2008
Ms. Natalie XXX
XXX, Oklahoma 7XXXX
Dear Ms. XXX,
Thank you for writing me about your daughter Jasmine. I appreciate your input and candor. I sympathize with what you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis to help your daughter remain healthy.
As a practicing physician, I am well aware of the devastating impact diabetes has on Americans. I believe businesses should do the right thing with regard to people with disabilities. People like Jasmine should not face discrimination in businesses or in the workplace.
As you know, the Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration Act of 2007 (S. 1881) would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 to re-define “disability” under the ADA as a physical or mental impairment (under current law, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual), a record of a such impairment, or being regarded as having a such impairment. Furthermore, this bill would prohibit the consideration of whether the individual uses a mitigating measure, the impact of any mitigating measures, or whether any impairment manifestations are episodic, in remission, or latent, in determining whether a person is “disabled” for the purposes of applying the ADA.
This bill has been assigned to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, of which I am a member. On November 15, the HELP Committee held a hearing on this bill. Mr. Orr testified at the hearing. At the hearing it came out that Mr. Orr’s attorney made some critical errors in how he handled the case. Thus, Mr. Orr’s story is not a story of failed legislation.
Because the bill as it’s currently written reshapes the definition of “disability” in a fashion that will lead to a litigation boom, I am hesitant to support this bill at this time. The definitions in the bill are too vague and broad to support. The HELP committee is likely to have more hearings on the bill. I look forward to reviewing the issues that are debated and discussed and will keep Jasmine in mind.
Again, thank you for contacting me on this issue. I will continue to support policies that work to integrate persons with disabilities into mainstream society and policies that provide opportunities for people with disabilities to live meaningful lives. I will keep Jasmine in my prayers. Please keep in touch.
Tom A. Coburn, M.D.
United States Senator