Americans with Disabilities Act: An Epic Tragedy of Good Intentions

Looking back at the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed by Congress in 1990[1], one has to be struck by the extent to which the ADA’s lofty sentiments have been overwhelmed by its adverse results. If it’s true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the ADA is a veritable Autobahn of wishful thinking gone awry. Yet no one seems inclined to reroute the ill-fated traffic; some states are even widening the highway with additional lanes.

As I explained in a recent article for City Journal (“The ADA Litigation Monster,” Spring 2017), the statute has produced—and continues to produce—many unintended consequences. In the area of employment (covered by its Title I), the ADA has spawned a large and growing caseload of “discrimination charges” at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Each and every year, more than 26,000 disability complaints are filed with the EEOC, accounting for about 30 percent of its entire administrative caseload. Disability complaints are now as common as sex-discrimination claims, with over 400,000 having been filed with the EEOC since 1990—the vast majority of which the commission has determined to be meritless.

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