The Language Of Disability Rights

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

“Powerful in its simplicity.” President George Bush used those words to describe the Americans with Disabilities Act when he signed the law in 1990. This year, the federal government’s National Council on Disability reiterated Bush’s message about the ADA Feb. 19 in the introduction to its “progress report” on implementation of the law.

But if today’s ADA-related legal wrangling is indicative of disability law in 1999, the landmark civil-rights statute that prohibits discrimination against the disabled in the workplace, public services and public accommodations is anything but simple. The Supreme Court issued its first disabilities ruling last year, and the justices are expected to rule on five cases soon before adjourning this year.

And that is just the tip of the disability-law iceberg, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which began enforcing the law in 1992. EEOC statistics show that disabilities-related complaints have averaged more than 20 percent of all job-discrimination complaints since 1994, with a total of nearly 18,000 filed in 1998 alone.

Many of those complaints go nowhere, of course. Of the 108,939 cases filed between July 1992 and September 1998, according to the EEOC, half have been dismissed as having “no reasonable cause,” and businesses have paid only $211 million as a result.

Yet the sheer size of the caseload has kept the disabilities debate alive and strong in the years since the ADA’s enactment. To disability-rights advocates, the existence of thousands of complaints is evidence that disability-related discrimination remains a problem; to business groups, the complaints reinforce their pre-ADA belief that the law is “a good idea gone bad.”

Interpreting congressional intent
The NCD’s annual report indicates that the concerns of the disabled touch virtually every sector of the domestic agenda — employment discrimination, health care, welfare, immigration, transportation and housing, to name a few — and sometimes the international agenda. The report notes that the ADA serves “as a model of civil rights legislation for countries throughout the world.”


Before There Were Draft Dodgers

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

Every time a nation goes to war, a time-honored debate about military preparedness ensues. Policymakers and military leaders ponder the pros and cons, and the morality and legality, of an all-volunteer force versus an army of draftees quickly trained and ordered to fight.

Did author B.H. Liddell Hart have it right in 1950, they may wonder, when he argued that “conscription has been the cancer of civilization”? Or was Napoleon Bonaparte’s belief that “conscription is the vitality of a nation, the purification of its morality, and the real foundation of all its habits” more valid?

The United States, now at war in Europe’s Yugoslav region and with some members of Congress already contemplating a renewal of the draft, soon may have to revisit those questions. If so, it will not be the first time. Congress had the same debate for the first time this century in 1917, just after declaring war against Germany, and its decision led to the first-ever U.S. draft for a foreign war.

The draft as last resort
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the power “to raise and support armies.” It is silent on the means lawmakers may use to that end, but Congress rarely has resorted to the draft.

The Confederacy instituted conscription for the first time (in America) during the Civil War. Its draft law, enacted on April 16, 1862, compelled men between the ages of 18 and 35 to enroll for three years of military service but provided numerous exemptions. It was designed mostly to keep volunteers from leaving the army after their terms expired, according to The Encyclopedia of the U.S. Congress.

In the North, the Enrollment Act of March 3, 1863, applied to 20- to 45-year-old men. It included a “buy out” provision that enabled the wealthy to pay $300 (the equivalent of an average worker’s annual salary) to avoid service, or to hire a substitute soldier. The buy-out provision, which prompted massive anti-draft riots in New York City and elsewhere, was repealed a year later, but the wealthy still could hire substitutes.

When Father Doesn’t Know Best

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

A little more than two weeks ago, a disturbed duo of teenage boys awakened a nation of parents from their suburban-induced stupor with the echo of gunfire. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, both seniors at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed a dozen schoolmates and one teacher before taking their own lives.

In the wake of the tragedy, everyone has pondered the same questions: Why did it happen? Who or what is to blame? How can we prevent further episodes of school violence? But for parents, more personal questions tweak the conscience: Are we to blame? Could the same thing happen to our children?

A note at the “Parent’s Corner” of The National Parenting Center expresses the post-Littleton parental anxiety best. “This past week has left me wondering if I have what it takes to be a parent in today’s world,” the letter says. “My confidence has been shaken to its foundation, my moral determination critically wounded as I fight the uncontrollable urge to cry each time I look at my daughters.”

No shortage of advice
If today’s parents have failed, their failures have not been for lack of information and advice. A quick tour of the Internet, among the more popular targets for blame these days for teenage violence, shows that parents have plenty of places to turn.

Parent Soup is just one of the many Web-based resources for the parent at wit’s end, or even the one who is trying to stay ahead of the parenting curve. The site provides an abundance of information for wannabe parents, expectant mothers and couples with kids of all ages (babies, toddlers, school-age children and teens).

Today’s parents also have easy access to another storehouse of information: the counsel of those whose experiences may mirror their own. The chats and bulletin boards at are typical of many Web sites where parents can exchange their thoughts and ideas with their colleagues in child rearing.

For the less technically inclined parents, plenty of information exists outside cyberspace. The shelves of most any library or bookstore include an array of parenting tomes, from the general (“ABC’s of Effective Parenting”) to the specific (“The Angry Teenager: Why Teens Get So Angry and How Parents Can Help Them Grow Through It”).