Johnson_2002 - 20 The Nation. February 11, 2002 has ceased...

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20 The Nation. February 11, 2002 THE SUPREME COURT HAS MADE A DECISION THAT IS WRONGHEADED, AND WRONG. Disabling a Civil Right T he case of Toyota Motors v. Williams , which the Supreme Court decided on January 8, vir- tually wipes out a legal remedy for millions of workers who face job discrimination be- cause of a physical impairment. The unani- mous opinion by Sandra Day O’Connor was a serious blow to the already reeling Americans with Disabilities Act and reflected how indiffer- ent our society, courts and legislature are to the issue of disability discrimination. Ella Williams developed carpal tunnel syn- drome from doing repetitive tasks at the Toyota plant where she worked in Kentucky. When she sued Toyota for disability dis- crimination for refusing to give her work she could do that didn’t involve exacerbating her injury, the auto company argued that Williams was not “disabled” and thus had no right to use the law. The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that Williams’s condition did not constitute a “disability” because she could still perform tasks “central to daily life” such as cooking her meals or brushing her teeth. What the Supreme Court decided in the Wil- liams case was wrongheaded, and wrong. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law; its intent was to focus on eliminating em- ployers’ practices that are discriminatory. It would be one thing for the Court to rule that a company did not discriminate against a worker in a case like Williams’s. But the Court never even deals with that; it simply says that someone like Williams has no right to even be allowed to use the law. This is far different from the way other civil rights laws are applied. Toyota has succeeded in limiting the use of the law to only those people deemed “disabled enough” to have the “special privilege” of using the law—as if, in the 1960s, companies had success- fully argued that only people who were of 100 percent African- American heritage could use the Civil Rights Act (and first they had to have a doctor prove they were “truly Negro”). We may think this idea bizarre, but that’s exactly like what Toyota has now got the Court to agree to. It’s simply a way to limit access to civil rights, and tragically, it’s working. MARY JOHNSON Mary Johnson’s book, Make Them Go Away: Clint Eastwood, Christo- pher Reeve and the Case Against Disability Rights , will be published by the Advocado Press this year. She edits Ragged Edge magazine. has ceased to exist.… And all this is very strange because, on Saturday morning—when American B-52s unloaded dozens of bombs that killed 115 men, women and children—nothing hap- pened.… We know this because the U.S. Department of Defence told us so.… ‘It just didn’t happen.’” The New York Times , December 12, David Rohde, writing from Ghazni, Afghanistan: “Each ward of the Ghazni Hospital features a new calamity. In the first, two 14-year-old boys had lost parts of their hands when they picked up land mines. ‘I was playing with a toy and it exploded’ said one of them, Muhammad Allah.… a
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Johnson_2002 - 20 The Nation. February 11, 2002 has ceased...

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