Advisory: Supreme Court Limits Reach Of Disabilities Law

Feb. 26, 2001

What: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states could not be sued under federal law for discriminating against their disabled workers. The decision pierces a landmark civil rights law aimed at protecting people from prejudice because they appear different. By a 5-4 vote, the justices said Congress lacked the power to make states liable for money damages in lawsuits by workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Who: Doris Zames Fleischer (718) 615-0350, doris.z.fleischer@njit.edu; Frieda Zames (212) 260-0423.

  • Doris Zames Fleischer has been a member of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at New Jersey Institute of Technology since 1988. Frieda Zames, associate professor of mathematics emeritus at New Jersey Institute of Technology, has been a disability rights activist for over 25 years. Both sisters live in N.Y.C.


Background: Based on interviews with over a hundred activists, this book provides a detailed history of the struggle for disability rights in the United States. It is a complex story of shifts in consciousness and shifts in policy, of changing focuses on particular disabilities such as blindness, deafness, polio, quadriplegia, psychiatric and developmental disabilities, chronic conditions (for example, cancer and heart disease), and AIDS, and of activism and policymaking across disabilities.

Referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act as " every American's insurance policy," the authors recount the genesis of this civil rights approach to disability, from the almost forgotten disabilities activism of the 1930s to the independent living movements of the 1970s to the call for disability pride of the 1990s. Like other civil rights struggles, the disability rights movement took place in the streets and in the courts as activists fought for change in the schools, in the workplace, and in the legal system. They continue to fight for effective access to the necessities of everyday life- to telephones, toilets, public buildings, restaurants, buses and planes.


NJIT is a public research university enrolling over 8,200 bachelor's, master's and doctoral students in 80 degree programs through its five colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, the School of Management and the Albert Dorman Honors College. Research initiatives include manufacturing, microelectronics, multimedia, transportation, computer science, solar astrophysics, environmental engineering and science, and architecture and building science. According to Yahoo! Internet Life magazine rankings, NJIT has been America's most wired public university for three consecutive years.

Contact Information: Sheryl Weinstein
Office Of Communications, 
(973) 596-3436 

Michael Olohan
Office of Communications,
(973) 596-5203