ragged edge magazine online



Issue 5
September, 2001



More about Toyota v. Williams.

Other Supreme Court cases on the ADA's definition of 'disability'



Whose ADA Is It, Anyway?

Ella Williams, who worked at the Toyota plant in Kentucky says she developed carpal tunnel syndrome from doing repetitive tasks at the plant. Toyota says it offered Williams a different job, but Williams turned it down, saying it included manual labor that she was not able to do. Williams sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the case. Oral arguments were heard Nov. 7.

The Bush Justice Dept. filed a brief in June siding with Toyota; some national rights groups told the Washington Post in an Aug. 7 story that this brings into question how much the Bush administration really supports the ADA after all. Despite the feel-good posturing of the Administration over its "New Freedom Initiative" and the unveiling of its wheelchair-height podium this spring, we say the jury's still out.

Splitting HairsSupreme Court listens to "How disabled is 'disabled'?" in oral arguments. Washington Post | New York Times.

Chai Feldblum, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, suggested to The Post that perhaps the Bush administration was "trying to pander in some way to the business community." Why does this not surprise us?

Like the Sutton, Murphy and Kirkinburg cases decided by the Court two years ago this summer, Ella Williams' lawsuit is a case about who the ADA was intended for. Certainly not "regular" people who "just have" carpal tunnel syndrome! That's what the pro-Toyota forces say.

When Sutton and its companion cases were in the news in 1999, some in the disability rights movement were quoted in national media making the point that people like Kimberly Sutton who couldn't see without glasses, and UPS mechanic Vaughn Murphy who took medication for high blood pressure, were not really "people with disabilities" like seriously disabled people were.

This will likely happen as well with Ella Williams' case. Millions of workers have repetitive stress injuries. Hardly anyone views them as "disabled." Not like "real disabled people." Not part of the disability rights movement.

The more people can be removed from the protection of the ADA, the happier the anti-rights forces will be.

The only real voices who can speak up for them are ours.

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