Rather than looking for neat linear cause-and-effect relationships, it is prudent to think in terms of a "chain of influence." Doing so permits one to identify characteristics and effects of the law at key points in its implementation -- are what a program does with its inputs --the services it provides-- to fulfill its mission, e.g., complaint handling, compliance monitoring, public education about reasonable accommodations, and technical assistance on accessibility.
Activities result in for the program's participants during or after their involvement with the program.
To determine the "results" of a civil rights law, policymakers examining points in its could investigate: (a) costs, e.g., number of federal staff assigned to handle ADA complaints, as an "input"; (b) the number of complaints processed annually, as an "activity"; (c) compliance and/or enforcement, such as the number of settlements, as an "output"; and (d) lifestyle "outcomes" – e.g., homeownership, post-secondary education, or employment---as a result of the law.
How to do all that must, however, be considered within a comprehensive evaluation framework.
Nevertheless, they should not rush into evaluation using inadequate methods that assume a direct cause-and-effect relationship between a primary problem (e.g., discrimination or bias against people with disabilities), a secondary problem (e.g., high unemployment among people with disabilities), and a given "solution" (e.g., passage of ADA).
As noted, societal change is a complex process; a law's implementing programs cannot be isolated from the many institutions (e.g.
With ADA, a new paradigm of disability was firmly established in law and policy.
Moving away from the medical model that traditionally formed the foundation of disability policy, this paradigm offers a civil rights orientation and focuses on societal barriers to full participation rather than individual's functional impairments.
Research Specialist, National Council on Disability. (The views expressed in this article do not purport to represent the views of the National Council on Disability.) Introduction The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) aims to strike a fair balance between the rights of people with disabilities and the legitimate concerns of the business community and other entities covered by the legislation.
To do so, the conceptual framework and language of ADA emphasize empowerment, independence, and inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of community life, but also "reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship".
In sum, it is not currently possible to obtain an accurate estimate of ADA's administrative and enforcement costs, although there are signs that its administration may be underfunded at this time.