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Promises to Keep: A Decade of Federal Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act

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Promises to Keep (PDF, 1867K)


National Council on Disability
June 27, 2000

National Council on Disability
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20004-1107

202-272-2004 Voice
202-272-2074 TTY
202-272-2022 Fax

This report is also available in alternative formats and on NCD's award-winning Web site ().

The views contained in the report do not necessarily represent those of the Administration, as this document has not been subjected to the A-19 Executive Branch review process.

Letter of Transmittal

June 27, 2000

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I am pleased to submit a report entitled Promises to Keep: A Decade of Federal Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This report is the third in a series of independent analyses by NCD of federal enforcement of civil rights laws.

The series grew out of NCD's 1996 national policy summit, attended by more than 300 disability community leaders from diverse backgrounds, who called upon NCD to work with federal agencies to develop strategies for greater enforcement of existing disability civil rights laws. In March 1999, NCD produced its first report, Enforcing the Civil Rights of Air Travelers with Disabilities. The second report, Back to School on Civil Rights, on the enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, was issued in January 2000. The enforcement reports to follow in this series will be on the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Promises to Keep looks at the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enforcement activities from 1990 to 1999 of four key federal agencies: the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Communications Commission. NCD's findings reveal that while the Administration has consistently asserted its strong support for the civil rights of people with disabilities, the federal agencies charged with enforcement and policy development under ADA have, to varying degrees, been underfunded, overly cautious, reactive, and lacking any coherent and unifying national strategy. In addition, enforcement agencies have not consistently taken leadership roles in clarifying "frontier" or emergent issues.

This report provides a blueprint for addressing the shortcomings that have hindered ADA compliance and enforcement until now. NCD stands ready to work with our sister agencies and other stakeholders inside and outside the government to develop that strategy. Indeed, throughout the preparation of this report, federal agencies have shown great willingness to collaborate with NCD in advancing the broad and enlightened enforcement of ADA. We look to the next decade of enforcement with anticipation that the promises of ADA can and will be realized through the vision and dedicated efforts of those who believe that equality of opportunity creates liberty and justice for all.


Marca Bristo

(The same letter of transmittal was sent to the President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.)



Marca Bristo, Chairperson
Kate Pew Wolters, First Vice Chairperson
Hughey Walker, Second Vice Chairperson
Yerker Andersson, Ph.D.
Dave N. Brown
John D. Kemp
Audrey McCrimon
Gina McDonald
Bonnie O'Day, Ph.D.
Lilliam Rangel-Diaz
Debra Robinson
Shirley W. Ryan
Michael B. Unhjem
Rae E. Unzicker
Ela Yazzie-King


Ethel D. Briggs, Executive Director
Jeffrey T. Rosen, General Counsel and Director of Policy
Mark S. Quigley, Public Affairs Specialist
Kathleen A. Blank, Attorney/Program Specialist
Geraldine Drake Hawkins, Ph.D., Program Specialist
Martin Gould, Ed.D., Research Specialist
Susan Madison, Fellow
Pamela O'Leary, Interpreter
Allan W. Holland, Accountant
Brenda Bratton, Executive Secretary
Stacey S. Brown, Staff Assistant
Carla Nelson, Office Assistant