Past Event

Who is Disabled?

Guest Speaker Announcement:

This week Cafe Society will host guest speakers from Access Living!

Carrie Kaufman
will be at Intelligentsia on Tuesday, and Sarah Triano will beat the Chicago Cultural Center on Wednesday!

Over the past few years, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several cases involving the Americans with Disabilities Act. It has narrowly interpreted the definition of disability, thus limiting who can use the law to challenge discrimination in employment settings. Earlier this year, disability rights advocates responded by introducing the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 in Congress.

The Restoration Act wouldensure that people with disabilities such as diabetes, HIV, mental illness, breast cancer, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and amputations are protected protection from discrimination under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Individuals who use “mitigating” measures — such as a hearing aid, a prosthetic limb or medication — would be protected along with people who suffer adverse affects from treatment for the disability.

Supporters argue that the 1990 ADA was meant to include these types of disabilities. They point out that within the parameters currently set by the Court a person can be “too disabled to get a job” but “not disabled enough to challenge the adverse action by the employer.” Opponents of the Restoration Act characterize it as an expansion of the ADA. They contend that if this legislation is adopted virtually everyone could be defined as having a disability at one point or another. They maintain that the costs would suffocate both small and large businesses, increase the chance of litigation, and cause a loss of control over the workplace.

What conditions should be considered disabilities? If the definition of disability was more inclusive would it ultimately dilute the current protections provided? If everyone was provided protection against discrimination because the notion of disability was broadened, what would be the negative impacts on business and society in general? Are the expenses expanding the definition of disability worth providing protections for people against discrimination by employers?

Join us this week at Café Society to share your thoughts and learn more about this issue.

Suggested Readings:

About Our Speakers:

Carrie Kaufman grew up in Deerfield and lives in Lincoln Park.She is a recent graduate of Depaul University with a BA in psychology. She works at access living doing peer supportand counseling for people who are adjusting to and living with disabilities.

Sarah Triano is a Disabilityand human rights activist, writer, and speaker who is best known for her dynamic, provocative, and engaging presentations.She proudly and openly identifies as a young woman with a disabilityand istheProgram Director at Access Living,a disability civil rights organization in Chicago.Triano has received several national awards for her work in the area of disability rights and social justice, including a Paul G. Hearne/American Association of People with Disabilities Leadership Award, a prestigious national award and $10,000 cash prize given annually to people with disabilities who are emerging as leaders in their respective fields. Triano used the award to launch a nationwide Disability Pride Tour in order to break down the internalized shame among people living with disabilities, support a systematic redefinition of “disability,”and promote the belief in society that Disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity that Disabled people can take pride in. As part of her effort to promote Disability Pride, Triano also created a website,, and wrote the entry on, “Disability Pride,” for the Encyclopedia of Disability. In 2004, she served as the co-chair for the nation’s first annual Disability Pride Parade in Chicago, which is now in its 5th year. Triano lives in Chicago with her husband and partner, Jason Lopez, and their Whippet puppy, Diva.

Access Living is a cross-disability organization governed and staffed by a majority of people with disabilities. Access Living fosters the dignity, pride, and self-esteem of people with disabilities and enhances the options available to them so they may choose and maintain individualized and satisfying lifestyles. Access Living recognizes the innate rights, abilities, needs and diversity of people with disabilities, works toward their integration into community life and serves as an agent of social change.

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.