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Expert Available: MU Expert on Disability says Changes in the Americans with Disabilities Act will Clarify the Law for Employers

July 12th, 2010

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430, BasiC@missouri.edu

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

Jim de Jong, who is executive director of the Great Plains ADA Center at MU, says that amendments to the ADA act will help both businesses and the disabled.

Jim de Jong, who is executive director of the Great Plains ADA Center at MU, says that amendments to the ADA act will help both businesses and the disabled.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, passing into law a sweeping set of reforms designed to give the physically and mentally disabled greater access to buildings, jobs, educational opportunities and other areas of life. Now, 20 years later, amendments to the original ADA will go into effect; the changes are positive for both employers and the disabled, says Jim de Jong, who is the executive director of the Great Plains ADA Center at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions and was instrumental in working with Congress to pass the original ADA.

“Back in 1990, we got a wonderful bill signed into law, but we didn’t get everything right,” de Jong said. “Several court decisions changed the original intent of the bill, so we clarified the original bill. These amendments to the original ADA give a clearer explanation of what is considered a disability, clarify certain building codes, and specify requirements for private businesses.”

The Great Plains ADA Center at MU is one of ten regional ADA Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to provide technical assistance, information, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act and related disability laws. Established in 1991, the center serves individuals, families and entities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

“In many cases, we can work with a business and help them save money as it relates to fulfilling ADA requirements,” de Jong said. “It’s also very important for businesses and individuals to understand how the amendments might affect them. This will vary by situation, but we are always willing to sit down with them and talk about the changes.”

de Jong served on the U.S. House of Representatives Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities, the group that developed and steered the Americans with Disabilities Act through the U.S. Congress with Senator Tom Harkin. He maintains close working relationships with Congressional staffers, providing input and feedback about the ADA and related activities. He is the co-founder of the ADA National Network linking the ADA Centers with Washington D.C. policy makers in an effort to provide constant information on emerging issues and regulations related to ADA implementation.

 de Jong has completed more than 1,000 ADA and disability related presentations in 20 states during the past two decades. He has received the Leadership Award from the U.S. House of Representatives Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities and received the President’s Award from the National Rehabilitation Association.

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