Overwhelming Public Support For the Americans with Disabilities Act, But Disagreements Exist on What Should Qualify as a Disability

NEW YORK, N.Y. – This coming Sunday will mark 25 years to the day since President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, and Americans are clearly still behind the legislation with 83% of those who have seen, heard or read anything about the legislation saying they favor and support it. It’s worth noting that this support is universal, with strong majorities of Americans favoring the act across demographic, socioeconomic and political lines.

“We were pleased to see that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor and support the ADA, which brought about unprecedented improvements in the quality of life for millions of Americans with disabilities,” says Carol Glazer, President, National Organization on Disability. “This broad support has laid a foundation for a growing number of employers to discover the benefits of including people with disabilities as part of a productive workforce.”

Breaking out specific provisions of the act, roughly nine in ten U.S. adults support the idea that public places may not discriminate against customers on the basis of disability (90%) and that employers may not discriminate against qualified candidates on the basis of a disability (88%). Over eight in ten support the provision that public transportation vehicles be made accessible to people with disabilities (83%), and three-fourths are in favor of employers with over 15 employees being expected to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities (75%). However, when it comes down to what conditions Americans believe should actually qualify as disabilities (and thus be applicable for such protections) these consensuses begin to break down.

These are among the findings from a Harris Poll of 2,220 U.S. adults (aged 18 and older) surveyed online from June 17-22, 2015.

Strong majorities of Americans believe vision loss, blindness, or other permanent vision impairments (88%); cerebral palsy (83%); hearing loss, deafness, or other permanent hearing impairments (79%); multiple sclerosis (78%); autism (68%); and epilepsy (68%) should qualify as disabilities.

Over half also believe speech and language disorders (57%), learning disabilities (54%) and cancer (52%) should qualify, though only minorities of older Americans and Republicans are behind these particular conditions being considered disabilities:

  • Speech and language disorders: 41% of Matures, 47% of Republicans
  • Learning disabilities: 44% of Matures, 46% of Republicans
  • Cancer: 48% of Baby Boomers, 41% of Matures, 45% of Republicans

Majorities of Millennials (57%) and Democrats (54%) believe schizophrenia should qualify, while lower percentages of other generations (44% Gen Xers, 41% Baby Boomers, 27% Matures) and political persuasions (37% Republicans, 42% Independents) say the same, bringing the total support for this condition qualifying to 46%.

Three in ten Americans believe depression (29%) should qualify, while just over two in ten say the same of migraine headaches (22%), 17% say the same of morbid obesity and 16% believe anorexia or bulimia should qualify. One in ten feel that drug addiction (10%) or alcoholism (9%) should qualify, while 5% say the same of compulsive gambling.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those who say they or someone else in their household faces an emotional or mental disability are especially likely to believe autism (75%), schizophrenia (67%) and depression (57%) should be considered qualifying conditions.

Employer onus and political considerations

A strong majority of Americans (66%) agree that a person should be required to disclose any disability during the job interview process. Americans are more split on the sentiment that a company should not be required to accommodate existing disabilities that went undisclosed during the interview process, with 48% agreeing, 41% disagreeing and 11% unsure. While some do believe that the ADA goes against the idea of treating everyone equally (28%), the disagreement with this statement is far stronger (50%).

Americans are not without reservations about the ADA, as a plurality of Americans agree that the legislation puts too much of a burden on small companies (45%, with 34% disagreeing and 21% unsure).

Older Americans are more likely than their younger counterparts to agree that…

  • Job candidates should have to disclose any disabilities during the interview process (82% Matures, 74% Baby Boomer, 64% Gen Xers, 55% Millennials)
  • A company should not be required to  accommodate existing disabilities that were not disclosed during the interview process (57%, 56%, 43% and 40%, respectively)
  • The ADA puts too much of a burden on small companies (60%, 51%, 39% and 38%, respectively)

Those adults who either have some type of disability themselves or else share a home with someone who has a disability are less likely than those with no such connection to agree that a person should disclose any disability during the job interview process (61% self, 60% other HH member, 71% none); it’s worth noting, though, that majorities of all three cohorts do agree with this sentiment.

Half of Americans agree (50%, with 33% disagreeing) that they’d base a congressional or senate voting decision on where a candidate stands on disability issues, while nearly half say the same when it comes to a presidential voting decision (47%, with 36% disagreeing).

Those with a disability, or living with someone with a disability, are especially likely to say they would base such voting decisions on where a candidate stands on disability issues.

  • Congressional or senate voting decision (56% self, 59% other HH member, 42% none)
  • Presidential voting decision (55%, 56% and 40%, respectively)

 

TABLE 1

HAVE SEEN, HEARD OR READ ANYTHING ABOUT AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

By Generation & Disabilities in Household

 “On another topic, have you seen, heard or read anything about a law called the Americans with Disabilities Act – which helps, supports and protects people with disabilities – or not?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Disabilities in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Self

Other member of HH

None

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Have seen, heard or read about it

70

62

68

78

73

73

73

67

Have not

20

25

21

16

19

18

19

22

Don’t know

9

10

10

6

8

7

8

10

Decline to answer

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

2

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

*indicates responses below 0.5%

 

 

TABLE 2

FAVOR/SUPPORT OR DISAPPROVE/OPPOSE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

By Generation, Political Party & Disabilities in Household

 “Overall, do you favor and support the Americans with Disabilities Act or disapprove and oppose it?”

Base: Have seen, hear or read anything about the ADA

 

Total

Generation

Political Party

Disabilities in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Rep

Dem

Ind

Self

Other member of HH

None

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Favor and support

83

85

86

81

81

77

93

81

87

84

80

Disapprove and oppose

5

3

4

8

6

10

2

5

7

7

5

Don’t know

11

12

10

11

13

13

5

15

7

9

15

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 3a

SUPPORT FOR KEY PROVISIONS OF AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – Summary Grid

“Of the key provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act below, do you support or not support each one?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

 

Support

Do not support

Not sure

Decline to answer

Public places like restaurants, hotels, theaters, stores, and museums may not discriminate against customers on the basis of disability.

%

90

3

6

1

Employers may not discriminate against someone who is qualified to do a job just because they have a disability.

%

88

4

7

1

New public transportation vehicles must be made accessible to people with disabilities.

%

83

4

11

1

Employers with more than 15 employees must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

%

75

8

15

1

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 3b

SUPPORT FOR KEY PROVISIONS OF AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

Summary of “Support” Responses By Generation, Political Party & Disabilities in Household

“Of the key provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act below, do you support or not support each one?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Political Party

Disabilities in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Rep

Dem

Ind

Self

Other member of HH

None

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Public places like restaurants, hotels, theaters, stores, and museums may not discriminate against customers on the basis of disability.

90 

89

92

90

86

87

92

90

89

91

89

Employers may not discriminate against someone who is qualified to do a job just because they have a disability.

88 

87

91

90

83

85

93

88

88

87

88

New public transportation vehicles must be made accessible to people with disabilities.

83 

84

87

83

76

79

88

83

82

84

84

Employers with more than 15 employees must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

75 

80

78

72

64

67

84

74

78

79

73

TABLE 4a

CONDITIONS WHICH SHOULD QUALIFY AS DISABILITIES

By Generation, Gender & Political Party

 “Which of the following conditions, if any, do you believe should be considered ‘disabilities’ and thus covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Please select all that apply.”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Political Party

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Men

Women

Rep

Dem

Ind

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Vision loss, blindness, or other permanent vision impairment (not correctable through surgery or lenses)

88

85

89

91

83

85

90

88

89

87

Cerebral Palsy

83

77

85

90

81

80

87

85

86

82

Hearing loss, deafness, or other permanent hearing impairments

79

80

79

80

73

75

83

76

83

78

Multiple Sclerosis

78

70

81

84

72

74

81

79

80

76

Autism

68

74

67

68

52

64

72

67

74

63

Epilepsy

68

71

68

67

59

64

71

61

75

67

Speech and language disorder

57

66

60

52

41

54

61

47

63

59

Learning disabilities (e.g., ADD, dyslexia)

54

62

52

51

44

52

56

46

61

52

Cancer

52

60

51

48

41

50

53

45

57

52

Schizophrenia

46

57

44

41

27

41

49

37

54

42

Depression

29

39

30

22

15

26

32

17

37

29

Migraine headaches

22

29

23

17

11

22

21

15

25

21

Morbid obesity

17

22

13

17

14

16

19

16

20

15

Anorexia/Bulimia

16

27

12

11

7

16

16

11

21

14

Drug addiction

10

17

7

7

7

10

10

7

15

8

Alcoholism

9

15

8

7

5

10

9

7

13

8

Compulsive gambling

5

9

4

2

3

5

5

5

5

4

None of the above

3

4

2

1

2

3

2

2

3

2

Note: Multiple responses allowed.

 

TABLE 4b

CONDITIONS WHICH SHOULD QUALIFY AS DISABILITIES

By Disabilities in Household (General) & Specific Conditions in Household

 “Which of the following conditions, if any, do you believe should be considered “disabilities” Table 28

and thus covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Please select all that apply.”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Disabilities in HH

Specific Conditions – Anyone in Household

Self

Other member of HH

None

Learning disability

Emotional/ Mental disability

Speech/ Communication disability

Hearing disability

Vision disability

Disability limiting use of Legs/ Arms/Hands

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Vision loss, blindness, or other permanent vision impairment (not correctable through surgery or lenses)

88

89

87

86

80

87

73

81

82

87

Cerebral Palsy

83

85

83

82

73

82

65

72

75

84

Hearing loss, deafness, or other permanent hearing impairments

79

80

82

77

74

80

62

72

69

79

Multiple Sclerosis

78

79

76

76

66

77

59

68

70

79

Autism

68

72

70

65

67

75

65

63

65

67

Epilepsy

68

72

71

64

65

76

52

62

61

71

Speech and language disorder

57

63

61

54

66

70

64

57

58

54

Learning disabilities (e.g., ADD, dyslexia)

54

57

59

51

58

62

51

53

56

52

Cancer

52

60

60

45

52

64

53

52

58

57

Schizophrenia

46

57

53

38

53

67

52

39

56

54

Depression

29

42

38

19

47

57

47

32

52

38

Migraine headaches

22

31

26

15

27

40

32

28

35

28

Morbid obesity

17

23

21

13

21

26

21

17

26

23

Anorexia/Bulimia

16

25

21

10

29

32

34

19

31

23

Drug addiction

10

14

15

8

14

21

15

10

20

14

Alcoholism

9

14

14

6

15

20

21

13

25

13

Compulsive gambling

5

6

7

3

9

10

12

8

12

7

None of the above

3

2

2

3

4

2

5

2

3

1

Note: Multiple responses allowed.

 

TABLE 5a

ATTITUDES REGARDING WORKPLACE DISABILITY ISSUES – Summary Grid

“How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

 

Agree (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

Disagree (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Don’t know

A person should be required to disclose any disability during the job interview process.

%

66

34

33

24

13

11

10

I would base a congressional or senate voting decision on where a candidate stands on disability issues.

%

50

15

35

33

22

11

17

A company should not be required to accommodate existing disabilities that were not disclosed during the interview process.

%

48

21

27

41

22

20

11

I would base a presidential voting decision on where a candidate stands on disability issues.

%

47

16

31

36

23

13

16

The ADA puts too much of a burden on small companies.

%

45

15

30

34

21

13

21

The ADA goes against the idea of treating everyone equally.

%

28

9

19

50

27

24

22

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 5b

ATTITUDES REGARDING WORKPLACE DISABILITY ISSUES

Summary of “Agree” Responses By Generation, Political Party & Disabilities in Household

“How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Political Party

Disabilities in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Rep

Dem

Ind

Self

Other member of HH

None

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

A person should be required to disclose any disability during the job interview process.

66

55

64

74

82

73

64

66

61

60

71

I would base a congressional or senate voting decision on where a candidate stands on disability issues.

50

55

51

47

38

40

62

46

56

59

42

A company should not be required to accommodate existing disabilities that were not disclosed during the interview process.

48

40

43

56

57

59

39

52

45

44

51

I would base a presidential voting decision on where a candidate stands on disability issues.

47

53

50

43

35

39

55

46

55

56

40

The ADA puts too much of a burden on small companies.

45

38

39

51

60

61

32

46

44

42

47

The ADA goes against the idea of treating everyone equally.

28

32

25

25

30

33

24

27

28

31

27

 

TABLE 6

HEALTH PROBLEM OR DISABILITY KEEPS SOMEONE IN HOUSEHOLD FROM PARTICIPATING FULLY IN WORK, SCHOOL, HOUSEWORK, OR OTHER ACTIVITIES

by Disabilities in Household (General) & Specific Conditions in Household

“Does a health problem or disability currently keep you or anyone in your household who is 18 years old or older from participating fully in work, school, housework, or other activities?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

%

 

Yes (NET)

29

 

     Yes, self

15

 

     Yes, someone else

9

 

     Yes, self and someone else

4

 

No

67

 

Don’t know

1

 

Decline to answer

2

 

Note: Multiple responses allowed.

 

TABLE 7

SPECIFIC CONDITIONS EXPERIENCED BY ANYONE 18+ IN HOUSEHOLD – Summary Grid

“Is there anyone in your household 18 years old or over, including yourself, who…?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

 

Yes (NET)

Yes, self

Yes, someone else

Yes, self and someone else

No

Don’t know

Decline to answer

Has any emotional or mental disability or condition

%

21

10

8

3

75

2

2

Has any physical disability that limits use of legs, arms, or hands

%

20

10

7

2

77

1

2

Has any disability that limits hearing

%

15

6

7

2

82

1

2

Has a learning disability of any kind

%

14

5

7

2

83

2

2

Has any vision or sight-related disability, except for ordinary eyeglasses

%

10

5

4

1

87

1

2

Has any disability that limits ability to speak or communicate with others

%

8

3

4

1

89

1

2

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between June 17 and 22, 2015 among 2,220 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #43, June 24, 2015

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll