The Instigator
Pro (for)
36 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
40 Points

The Americans with Disabilities Act should be repealed

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/7/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 14,412 times Debate No: 31974
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (44)
Votes (18)




This debate is about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [ADA], including changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-325). The full text of the various versions of the law are linked from the ADA's government site. [1.] Wikipedia summarizes the law:

The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined by the ADA as "...a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." The determination of whether any particular condition is considered a disability is made on a case by case basis. Certain specific conditions are excluded as disabilities, such as current substance abuse and visual impairment that is correctable by prescription lenses.

The law is enforced by the Justice Department imposing criminal and civil penalties against alleged offenders, and also by individuals seeking damages under the Act.

I will argue that the law has substantial defects causing harm to persons with disabilities and to society as a whole, and that it infringes upon individual and state's rights. Any law be rewritten by striking the bulk of it and inserting the text of a new law. The sense of the current debate is that the ADA has such defects that the country would be better off without it, whether or not some new law could be conceived that is beneficial overall.


Thanks to my opponent for accepting to this debate.

In this debate I will number references sequential from the start of the debate. This allows citing a reference in a previous round by just giving the number of the reference without also giving the round number. Con is not obliged to use my numbering system.


This opening round is for definitions and acceptance only. I will give the Pro case at the start of the second round.

Standard debate conventions apply. I list them here for the benefit of new debaters and readers. I believe there is nothing tricky or eccentric. Both sides agree to the following rules, and that violating the rules is a conduct violation, with anything contrary to the rules to be ignored by readers judging the debate:

DR 1. All arguments must be made in the debate. Evidence may be cited or linked from the debate, but only in support of arguments made in the debate. Arguments made in Comments are to be ignored.

DR 2. Source links or references must be included within the 8000 characters per round limit of the debate. No links or sources are permitted in comments.

DR 3 Any term not specifically defined before use is to be taken with the ordinary dictionary definition of the term that best fits the context of the debate.

DR 4. No new arguments shall be made in Round 4. Pro may rebut previous arguments using new evidence solely for that purpose, but no new arguments are allowed. Con may not present any new evidence in R4.

DR 5. DDO site rules always apply. Neither side may add or modify rules for the debate once the challenge is accepted.


I accept this challenge.

I want to urge all potential voters to leave their personal opions at the door when evaluating this round. A vote should be cast based on who made the better arguments, not who you personally agree with.
Debate Round No. 1


1. The ADA requires one person to sacrifice their livelihood for the sake of another.

We want to help handicapped people function more easily in society. The traditional way of providing at help is through charitable organizations that provide goods and services to people who need them and cannot afford them, and who raise awareness of the problems. Organizations may establish standards for things like handicapped accessibility and provide a logo for display by organizations that have elected to conform. If we insist on government involvement it could be done like building codes, with local governments maintaining the standards, perform certifications, and making sure that the government itself conform. One step beyond that would be for the government to provide grants to upgrade public and private structures so that as more of them meet the standards. That way benefits are born by the taxpayers, and taxpayer representatives determine the level of spending.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not use any of these approaches. Owners of public establishments must meet government regulations concerning handicapped access without regard for cost. One might imagine that government inspectors would inspect building and threaten fines if the building owner does not complying with regulations. That's not how enforcement is done under the ADA. Instead, private lawsuits can be brought against property owners with a penalty of $4000 for each violation. No notice of deficiency need ever be given, and the person suing may be paid off without the deficiency being corrected. The Federal government may also bring crushing lawsuits, and it does.

Here is how the system now works. In a restaurant in Southern California, vandals smashed a mirror in a restaurant washroom. Employees replaced the mirror with one that was two inches too high. (ADA rules require that mirrors be low enough so person in a wheelchair can conveniently see his reflection.) The mistake was discovered and corrected a month later, but that was time enough for someone to visit the restaurant 27 times and then sue for each encounter with the illegal mirror. The law provides $4000 per encounter, making over $100,000 in total. “Many of these suits have shuttered family-owned restaurants and small businesses. Fortunately, [the owner] will keep his doors open, despite the fact that the lawsuit is costing more than the restaurant in question made last year. Given the potential impact of a lawsuit alleging such a minor violation, [The owner] worries not only for his restaurant but for “every other business in California that’s having to sustain itself against these lawsuits.” [4.]

A mere summary for ADA-compliant restroom design runs six pages. [5.]
Door knobs are strictly prohibited, for example. The regulations are a gold mine for predatory lawyers. Southern California attorney Morse Merhrban has filed close to 1,000 or more ADA access lawsuits. [6.]

None of the detailed regulations are established by act of Congress, but rather by a bureaucracy that creates them. Recent regulations require that a permanent elevator be retrofitted into every public swimming pool for use by handicapped persons. Previous pool regulations allowed use of a portable lift that could be brought out upon request. An auditorium having a stage must provide an elevator from the audience to the stage, even if handicapped access to the stage is provided by a side or rear door. In practice, only highly trained professional architects can hope to thread he rules, producing high design and construction costs.

2. The ADA requires unsafe and unreasonable hiring practices

Suppose you want to hire, say, a ship captain. What can you ask about disabilities?

“Exxon gave Joseph Hazelwood a job after he completed alcohol rehab; when Hazelwood then let the Exxon Valdez run aground, a jury found that he'd recklessly gotten drunk before taking command--and that the company had been reckless to give him the job. So then the company decided people who've had a drug or drinking problem may not hold safety-sensitive jobs. The result? You guessed it -- employees with a history of alcohol abuse sued under the ADA, demanding their right to hold safety-sensitive jobs.” [7.] The head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission verified that the ADA does not allow discrimination in safety-sensitive jobs based upon a past history of alcohol abuse.

The head of the EEOC was asked, "If you come to me applying for a job, and your arm is in a sling, can I ask you why your arm is in a sling?" He had to consult a legal expert to answer this simple question. The EEOC lawyer said you can only ask if it will affect his job.

3. The ADA discourages hiring persons with disabilities.

The threat of lawsuit filed under the ADA discourages employers from hiring handicapped people. Once a handicapped person is hired they cannot be let go without fear of a government lawsuit. In just a few years after the legislation as passed, employment of handicapped men dropped by 7.8%. [8.]

An academic text "The Future of Disability in America" surveys the literature on the impact of ADA. "The researchers analyzing these data generally agree that the rate of employment for working-aged adults with disabilities declined during the 1990s, not only absolutely but also relative to the rate for those without disabilities." No studies show employment rates have improved. [9.]

An independent study published by the Bureau of Economic Research found "employment rates for disabled men in all age categories, and disabled women under the age of 40, fell sharply after the ADA. This decline represents a clear break from past trends for both disabled and non-disabled workers, and therefore seems likely to have been caused by the ADA." [10.] The ADA reversed the trend of increased hiring of the disabled.

The ADA requires that employers provide "reasonable" accommodation for handicaps. Under the 1990 law, what constitutes a handicap was subject to litigation, and the government was losing a lot of cases by courts ruling impairments too minor to be construed a handicap.

Under the 2008 revision of the law, nearly every everyone with any form of mental or physical disability is considered disabled. This includes persons who "in fact" have a disability, have "a record" of disability, or is "regarded" as having a disability even if he does not have one. If you take a medication that completely controls a condition, you are nonetheless "disabled" under the law. The number of lawsuits filed under the ADA rose 42% in the three years after passage.

The ADA is the wrong approach

The ADA establishes accommodation of disabled persons as a civil right. All other civil rights are negative rights, preventing government or individuals from preventing a person from speaking or doing something else they wish to do. It is a fundamentally immoral to require one person to sacrifice for the benefit of another. Publishers are not required to pay to publish what you want to say. The ADA rules are complex and the enforcement is arbitrary and extreme, so that fear of reprisals rules.

I suspect my opponent will argue that the beast of government can be satisfied if people just work hard enough and pay tribute as required. In fact, the cumulative burden of fighting government is death to freedom and ultimately death to the economy. I offered alternatives at the outset. At the very least it should be left to the states to address. The ADA should be repealed.



I will use Pro’s continuous source numbering system, but will refer to his sources as “P#” and my own as “#.”


  1. Pro offers no explanation or justification for why shared sacrifice is unethical. Multiple cases problematize this: compulsory military service, stealing from Bill Gates to feed a starving child, etc.
  2. Our society requires individual sacrifice for others all the time. Building Codes impose massive costs on developers to protect the well-being of the public, mandates to provide emergency medical care, and pretty much everything our taxes fund. Defer to the status quo US moral paradigm rather than Pro’s clunky absolutist paradigm.
  3. Participation in society necessitates obligations to others and compromise of liberties- this is basic social contract theory. The ADA is democratically enacted piece of legislation, flowing from the consent of the people.
  4. Prioritize an inclusive/flourishing society; individuals can flourish only in flourishing societies.
  5. Creation of an inclusive society is key to affirming the intrinsic value of all individuals, prefer this to absolutism. Absolutism puts us back in the days where a business owner could turn away customers based on race.

Pro’s Case:

  1. Excessive litigation
    1. Pro blatantly misrepresents how the ADA is enforced, claiming it ought to be like building codes; but the ADA CHANGED BUILDING CODES- that’s his entire [P5].
    2. Professional plaintiffs” result from state legislated enforcement mechanisms; since enforcement is determined state-by-state, most states don’t allow this.[1]
    3. Litigation is needed to create an incentive for ADA compliance. Pro points to a few clearly frivolous cases, but ignores the cases where individuals can’t by food because grocery stores are not ADA compliant.[7]
    4. California passed a law in late 2012 that reduces damages from law-suits, prevents “Stacking” of claims from multiple visits, and requires a 30 day failure to comply notice before. Pro’s complaints have already been resolved in California, where 40% of these lawsuits take place. The status quo will naturally resolve ADA enforcement mechanisms.[2]
    5. Courts overwhelmingly rule in favor of the defendant in ADA litigation cases, with courts ruling in favor of the defendants in 97% of cases.[3]
    6. Courts shut down people who abuse the system, Pro’s own [P6] says: “In 2004 a district judge ruled Molski a “vexatious litigant…” U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal…he can no longer file access lawsuits.”
    7. Pro’s moral claim is bunk. If you are non-compliant with building codes to society’s detriment, you will be sued. If you are non-compliant with the ADA to society’s detriment, you will be sued. Being liable for ADA compliance is not “forced sacrifice.” Business owners take on the responsibility of the ADA when they choose to open their doors to the public; they can always choose a different way to make a living. Obligations like this permeate society.
  2. Hiring
    1. The ADA contains provisions to protect businesses with reasonability clauses that create exceptions for “business necessity” and “excessive cost” [P1].
    2. Pro grossly misrepresents the Exxon case- EXXON WON; this demonstrates that the status quo can successfully resolve “hard cases” through ADA provisions. ADA does NOT promote unsafe hiring practices.[4]
  3. Employment
    1. Pro exaggerates the employment data in claiming the ADA hurts employment. His own source [P9] says:… the empirical picture is fuzzy and mixed. People with disabilities continue to have lower employment rates than other Americans, but whether this is because of or in spite of the ADA is not known.”
    2. Additionally, analysis of labor statistics show that drop in employment participation are due to reclassification of non-working non-disabled as disabled; post-ADA more people who already weren’t working were reclassified as disabled, skewing post-ADA stats.[5]

Con Case:

  1. ADA is good
    1. The ADA is critical to creating an inclusive society that creates space for disabled individuals to act as valuable members of society:
      Jane West noted in 1995 that "the greatest impact of the ADA to date is in two areas: the empowerment claimed by people with disabilities and changes in how our nation's institutions conduct routine business: in stores, on buses, in the office, and in our use of telecommunications." The fact is, these two aspects - self-perception and the accessibility of everyday life - are deeply interrelated, and both are vital to the ADA as a civil rights law.”[7]
    2. The ADA is an incredible tool for opening up society to disabled individuals. Examples: the national bus fleet went from 36% to 100% accessible, curb ramps in Austin increased from 1500 to 6000, the DOJ the was able to address accessibility issues at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, TV closed captioning and phone relay services.[7]
    3. Pro’s [P9] points out that employers have moved to better accommodate disabled employees in response to the ADA, noting that “tens of thousands of individuals with disabilities have directly benefited by filing claims under the law.”
    4. And the ADA acts as a moral commitment on behalf of the US government and society at large to stand in solidarity with disabled individuals and create an open and inclusive society. The flaws and shortcomings of the ADA serve as a challenge to do better.
      “The ADA stands as a long-term commitment to integrating people with disabilities into the mainstream of American life. The agencies, courts, lawyers, and employers responsible for fulfilling the U.S. Congress’s promise can do better and do more, but only in the context of a broader social change in attitudes about and behavior toward people with disabilities”[P9]
    5. And this challenge to do better is being answered in the status quo- that’s why California is fixing its enforcement mechanisms, its why the ADA was amended in 2008, and its why there is a massive body of literature examining the successes and failures of the ADA.
    6. Repeal sends a signal of disenfranchisement, that we tried out creating an inclusive society but in the end it wasn’t worth the effort and our priorities lay elsewhere. And Pro’s own sources say that perception of the disabled is crucial [P9].
    7. If repealed, the ADA will not be replaced with a better bill. Affirming the Resolution means the ADA goes away wholesale.
      1. The GOP is against the ADA, Rand Paul advocates for its repeal. New legislation would require GOP political will in favor.[6]
      2. The agenda for the next few years is full with other issues.
  2. Thus I offer the following Counterplan:
    The ADA should be amended to do one or more of the following- ban plaintiff compensation for ADA complaints, institute and expand existing tax credits for the hiring of disabled peoples and the cost of ADA compliance, and developing clearer employment discrimination guidelines.
  3. Counterplan Solvency:
    1. Pro’s own sources say implementation of tax credits would solve the ineffectiveness of the ADA in promoting disabled employment. Tax credits would help balance the perceived cost of hiring disabled individuals and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) proves targeted tax policies are effective.[P8]
    2. Only the counterplan solves unemployment- repealing the ADA just puts us back at the massive employment inequality of the pre-ADA world.
    3. The counterplan is in line with Pro’s moral framework, with the costs bearing on taxpayers and controlled by representative government rather than individual business.
    4. The Counterplan preserves our societal commitment to the disabled and doesn’t risk losing the positive aspects of the ADA.








Debate Round No. 2


  1. Con argues that if any shared sacrifice --code for Federal rule-- is justified, then the government is justified in forcing the individual to do anything it considers necessary for the common good. Laws should be limited to the minimum necessary. Perhaps a draft was justified in WWII, but we have decided that it ought not be used if not absolutely necessary. Objections to the ADA are that it is a Federal law that works through intimidation upon individuals. We do not have Federal laws that allow orphans to sue Bill Gates to force him to personally build an orphanage. The ADA does not put the burden of expenditures on all taxpayers, it is mainly is system for extracting payoffs from small businesses.

  2. Before the ADA we did not have Federal building codes imposed upon individuals. Building codes are voted by localities; ADA has a Federal bureaucracy generating endless specific rules, and it allows lawsuits for situations not covered by specific rules. Localities worry about costs; the Feds do not.

  3. Con asserts, in effect, "Democracy is the right of the 51% to pee on the cornflakes of the 49%." Under ADA, nearly everyone qualifies as disabled. A business owners livelihood can be completely destroyed by ADA. Since business owners are a minority, the majority does not care if the cumulative regulatory burden kills them. I' arguing that society does not benefit from that approach. If society democratically votes to spend enormous sums on benefits for any group, the burden should be shared by all taxpayers.

  4. Societies cannot flourish when the primary concern must be complying with government rules. There is no possibility of an individual ever knowing all the ADA rules. ADA promotes exclusion by making every handicapped person a “lawsuit bomb.”

  5. Racial equality, being a “do not,” costs nothing. ADA requires considerable expense, without any weighing of costs and benefits. It requires motel owners to put elevators in swimming pools, no matter the cost. Having an attendant assist handicapped people is unacceptable, period. Con says that anyone should be forced out of business if they cannot comply. I think localities should permit other reasonable accommodation, like having an attendant. How does closing a small town's only motel benefit anyone? The handicapped cannot use the pool and no one has a place to stay.

Building codes are voted locally, so a locality can decide they would prefer to be able to afford a public facility even if the swimming pool doesn't have an elevator. ADA is absolute and arbitrary.

Excessive litigation

    1. No, it's a Federal law and individuals can always sue. They can also go to the EEOC and file a complaint, in which case the taxpayer shoulders the plaintiffs costs, while the business owner gets to fight the Federal government at his own expense.

    2. Over 100,000 lawsuits have been initiated under ADA. A mirror 2 inches too high is real, punishable violation with no grounds for avoiding a $4K fine. Did handicapped people really starve before ADA, because they could shop for food? I think most business owners would respond to a voluntary certification process for access. Those who do not would lose business not only from handicapped people, but fro sympathetic shoppers.

    3. Outrage is producing some modification to enforcement, but it's still mysterious rules with $4K fines. Lawyers will adapt. Localities should be entirely responsible, so they can choose to escape Big Brother.

    4. If defendants win 97% of cases, that means that the law works by intimidation. Very few people can afford to take cases to courts, so they pay to settle. The 2010 law broadened the definition of disability in order to ensure more convictions.

    5. Individual lawyers can be blocked at enormous expense by defendants, but that just makes room for another lawyer to clean up until he encounters a defendant with enough money to block him,

    6. So if a business owner cannot afford to retrofit a swimming pool with an elevator, he should just shut down? Localities adopt building codes and worry a great deal about making them so onerous that they shut down business. The Feds have no such concern, and the ADA says so.


1. So? I didn't argue otherwise.

2. The point of the Exxon case is that the ADA sets up a conflict by requiring that safety-related hiring issues not be raised with an employee,. Other laws require that the questions be asked. The head of ADA enforcement affirmed the questions could not be asked. The courts ruled in Exxon's favor, but the employer will always violate one law or the other, and it will always be up to the courts to resolve. Repealing ADA removes the conflict in favor of safety and common sense.


1 My source surveyed all the studies of the effect of ADA on hiring. The overwhelming consensus was that it hurt handicapped hiring. Con found one study under one set of circumstances where results were “mixed.” Con concedes no studies show improvement, despite high bureaucratic burdens and lawsuits.

2. Con found a study rationalizing the drop in hiring, but the consensus remains.

Con's Case

1. Con sites an unsupported opinion that the ADA is wonderful. It isn't. Unreasonable rules are enforced by intimidation, and that hurts everyone.

2. I agree that supporting reasonable accommodation is worthwhile. The debate is about whether unreasonable Federal dictates and intimidation is the best way to accomplish the goals. It's not.

3. Tens of thousands of people filed lawsuits, and Con equates that with success. Now that virtually everyone qualifies as disabled, will more lawsuits mean more success? Employers will make reasonable accommodations without lawsuits; harassment is not success.

4. Are the flaws in the North Korean system of government merely a challenge to do better? I accept that people who believe in government regulation believe that authoritarian central control is a good thing. In practice, what really produces positive results is local control where the bad effects are appreciated rather than ignored.

5. Laws are not justified by feelings of moral commitment. We shouldn't care if authoritarian rulers believe they know what is best.

6. Repeal signals an end to arbitrary rule in which costs are ignored and handicapped people are viewed as lawsuit time bombs. Repeal forces localities to decide what is reasonable. Respect and concern for the handicapped will increase.

7. There should not be any Federal law replacing the ADA. States and localities should exclusively deal with the issue. California has many Big Brother laws. 3.4 million people have left the state. That's fair.

Con's Counter Plan

Con's Counter plan admits the deep flaws in the ADA. It amounts to a repeal and replacement, as I anticipated in the challenge. It effectively concedes the resolution.

It shows the defect in the thinking that wants Federal legislation to solve every problem. The flaw remains in which the Feds get it wrong, but the Feds do not suffer the adverse effects acutely. If changes ever come, they are inadequate. Congress delegates rule making to bureaucrats, and the bureaucrats are never fired for getting it wrong.

Tax incentives for making expensive retrofits at best only shifts pat of the burden to the public. It should be a line item in the Federal budget so law makers get to sign up explicitly for the cost of banning door knobs, and they get to justify the expense to their constituents. Besides, tax incentive only apply to companies making profits greater than the required ADA expenditures. Those who do not are put out of business.

Moreover, localities building public buildings are required to obey the wildly complex ADA regulations. The extra expense can delay or prevent construction of the facility.

The ADA should be repealed. It hurts the disabled by making them less employable, by hurting the economy that provides employment and services, and by improperly associating disabled people with foolish and expensive mandates.



I will do a line-by-line rebuttal using Pro’s argument numbering, then add my own numbered argument after his.


  1. Pro concedes that forced sacrifice is not prima facie immoral- it is justified in some circumstances but not all. I agree; ensuring equal access is one of the cases where it is justified.
  2. There is no moral difference between a federal and local building code- both represent the same relation between individual and government. Pro concedes building codes are moral and so concedes the ADA is moral.
  3. Democratic laws are sometimes undesirable, but undesirable laws can still be morally permissible.
  4. Pro asserts there is no way of complying with the ADA without any evidence- yet my [3] shows that even of the small percentage of people sued under the ADA, 97% were found to be in compliance. He also fails to interact with my argument- that societal well-being is a prerequisite to individual well-being and so we ought to prioritize our societal obligations.
  5. Pro misses my point: absolutist rights are problematic and regressive. Cross-apply that building codes and emergency medical care are “do something” policies where individuals bear the cost of social obligations.
  6. Pro concedes that participation in society creates obligations and that only an inclusive society affirms the value of all individuals. Our priority ought to lay in ensuring that individuals aren’t placed on the fringes of society without access to public transportation and social goods based on accidents of birth.

Excessive litigation

1,2,3) Again, Pro’s source for the $4k is from a California law that has already been fixed:

in California… plaintiffs can piggyback claims in state court under the Unruh Civil Rights Act... It provides damages of at least $4,000 per violation.”[8]

Also, [P2] that federal law does not allow professional plaintiffs:

The ADA allows private plaintiffs to receive only injunctive relief (…remedy violations…)and attorneys' fees, and does not provide monetary rewards to private plaintiffs who sue non-compliant businesses.”

Vote sources for Con- I had to waste time pointing out Pro’s unsourced and misleading claim during two rounds of this debate.

Is Pro really suggesting that as long as disabled people aren’t starving they don’t need access to grocery stores?

4,5) These are arguments you could make about any legal provision that allows people to be sued, e.g. business owners that get sued for building code violations. The legal system isn’t perfect, but the stats show that it overwhelmingly favors defendants in ADA cases.

6) Pro provides no evidence that hotels are shutting down because they can’t provide pool lifts. The fact is the ADA requires pool lifts only where “readily achievable” to avoid hurting small businesses. The real impact of the law is that the Marriott adds a small amount to their pool upkeep cost and then writes it off on their taxes so that handicapped children can enjoy a pool just as any other child can. [9]

7,8) Pro has offered no evidence that litigation has had any noticeable impact on the economy- he talks about suing people out of business with no sources to back this up. New evidence on this point would constitute a new argument in the final round.

9) Pro’s only complaint about litigation is that it hurts business. The Counterplan prohibits plaintiff damages- this allows litigating to bring business up to compliance while avoiding the abuses Pro complains about. This ensures there is no profit motive to litigation.


1,2) Pro is dealing in hypotheticals- the scenarios he describes are rare and the only example he can come up with shows that courts have already resolved the issue- the Exxon case set a clear legal precedent .

3) The EEOC publishes clear guidelines and even if the ADA was repealed companies would still have to comply with the EEOC on discrimination based on religion and race.

4) The counterplan clarifies hiring practices, resolving Pro’s complaints while retaining legal recourse for individuals with clear cases of discrimination.


  1. PROS SOURCE- the “survey” he refers to- SAID THE RESULTS WERE “MIXED”- Pro’s source doesn’t make the claims Pro does! Vote Con on sources.

    That same source also says : “There is evidence that the law improved employment rates for the portion of the disabled population most clearly protected by Title I.” [P9] Again, this is Pro’s source saying the exact opposite of what he says- the ADA helped employment where it was able to be properly applied.
  2. Pro is unresponsive to my [5]; post and pre-ADA employment stats cover different portions of the population. It doesn’t matter how many studies he has if they all use the same data that compare apples to oranges.

Con's Case

1,2,3) Pro concedes that reasonable accommodation is worthwhile, which is good since those thousands of lawsuits under the ADA resulted in: “federal government (95 percent) and private (82 percent) employers reported that they had made facilities more accessible.” [P9]. These lawsuits also involve cases of straight-up discrimination where people weren’t hired or were denied apartment leases because they were disabled- these cases SHOULD be litigated[7] If the ADA is repealed, individuals will have no legal recourse in these instances.

4,5,6) The flaws of the ADA aren’t ignored- that’s why the ADA was amended in 2010, why state laws are still evolving, and why there is a huge literature base evaluating its effectiveness and suggesting remedies. That’s the impact of retaining the ADA as a moral commitment to create an inclusive society where the disabled have the same accessibility to jobs and social goods as everyone else: it keeps alive the political will to pursue this end and keeps the topic open for discussion in public policy literature. Repeal ends the conversation, repeal says “we tried being inclusive but it was too hard- but hey it’s not like you’re starving.”

Apparently Pro thinks handicapped parking spots are the same as North Korean forced labor camps?

8) Pro concedes the ADA is extremely good at empowering the disabled [P9]. This is a benefit which is hard to quantify economically but a key aspect of Civil Rights legislation is the legal acknowledgment that discrimination of individuals is not invisible to society. When talking about the 1964 Civil Rights Act people rarely go into the details of the legislation- it is most important as a legal symbol of inclusion and empowerment. Pro can brush this off, but for thousands of Americans this has a tangible impact on their lives.

9) My [7] has extensive citations. The ADA creates accessible public transportation, opens up buildings to allow seeing eye dogs, and ensures SAT/college exams are properly administered.

Con's Counter Plan

My task is not to prove the ADA is perfect- it is to refute the resolution and demonstrate it should not be repealed. The counterplan is incompatible with the resolution- repealing the ADA costs us the opportunity to amend it. If I show that amending the ADA is better than repeal, I have shown that we ought not repeal the ADA.

  1. Amendment is not repeal and replacement. Replacement requires all the political compromise and horse trading that goes with new legislation; there is no knowing what the final bill would look like. Additionally, this is a waste of time- amending is more efficient.
  2. Pro is not advocating for repeal and replacement; the resolution only says we ought to repeal the ADA and Pro explicitly says we ought not replace it.
  3. Pro doesn’t dispute that the counterplan would solve the disabled unemployment gap. Tax benefits would offset any real or perceived costs of ADA compliance, Pro’s own sources say it would work. Repeal does nothing to solve unemployment, only amendment solves.
  4. The counterplan solves all of Pro’s complaints and retains all the benefits of the ADA- amendment represents the best of both worlds.


Debate Round No. 3


Thanks to Con for a vigorous debate.

People with arthritis can have trouble grasping a door knob. So is the solution to form a Federal bureaucracy with the power to ban door knobs? To affirm the ADA approach one must believe that nearly all problems are Federal problems, that no measure of reasonableness or cost should intrude upon Federal edicts.

Disabled people should receive reasonable accommodations for their disabilities. The ADA harms disabled people by identifying disabled people as a source of harassment and as “lawsuit time bombs.” Hiring of disabled people has dropped as a result. The is no cost limit on facility modifications, and a irresponsible bureaucracy makes unreasonable rules. Killing and inhibiting small businesses and making government facilities unaffordable harms both disabled people and the public at large. A voluntary program of certification would be more effective, or if government is involved it should be at a local level so that government can be held accountable for reasonable and appropriate rule making.

  1. Con implies that if some “forced sacrifice” is justified, then the degree of sacrifice is a minor issue. No, damaging A's livelihood, to the point out of putting him out business for the claimed benefit of B is immoral. A justice system and a military are vital to national survival, but banning doorknobs and putting elevators in swimming pools is not.

  2. I did not concede that building codes are moral; I asserted that if there are building codes, they ought to be local. I made clear the differences between a Federal building code and local ones: (1) local government must be responsive to local economics while a Federal bureaucracy is immune to local concerns, (2) local governments enact rules directly, while the Federal bureaucracy making ADA rules is not elected; and rules should reflect local conditions and concerns. (For example, an urban area may be best served by equipping all public buses with wheel chair lifts, while a rural area may be much better served by an on-call taxi van.) Con ignored these differences.

  3. Huh?

  4. I argued that only large corporations (like Exxon) can afford to fight the government, so the ADA's main mechanism for enforcement is intimidation. Big business only fights cases they can win. The main reason for the government losing cases was the definition of “disabled,” so the 2010 fixed that by classifying nearly everyone as disabled. The head of the EEOC could not figure out what was compliant, so it's ridiculous to suppose a small business can figure it out.

  5. I can't parse Con's debate jargon. I'm guessing it's the (1) argument again, answered above.

  6. Pro argues that inclusion should have no bounds on cost or reasonableness. That's an absolutist argument, which he otherwise abhors. He also fails to recognize the distinction of taxing everyone to pay for benefits going to a few people and demanding that one individual provide costly benefits directly to another. We tax Bill Gates according a tax code that considers his wealthy status, while the ADA targets businesses losing money exactly the same as the rich corporations.

Excessive Litigation

Con points to the hundred thousand lawsuits filed under the ADA as proof that the legislation is a success, but then he argues that the litigation is not excessive. Building codes are enforced by a government inspector. The ADA enforcement is based upon harassment and intimidation. Remember, the head of the EEOC couldn't say in a simple case what was legal and illegal under the law. The sheer volume of rules eliminates the possibility of a small business applying them without expensive expert help.

The California case is instructive. Con is right that the $4K per violation mechanism of local enforcement in California was repealed. Even regulation-obsessed California was forced to back off due to local pressure,. The bureaucrats making ADA rules are completely immune from the adverse consequences. of their edicts.

Con points out that lawyers suing under the Federal legislation can only recover their fees. Collecting fees is the ordinary way that lawyers prosper. Lawyers have in fact been inspired to file a hundred thousand lawsuits.

Handicapped people bought food before the ADA was passed. Supermarkets have always had good access. With few exceptions, small markets usually have staff that's willing to help. I'll grant that not every store was perfectly accessible, but all consumers go to the places that provide the service they want. For example, many people have food allergies that require them to shop at stores that serve them. Short people cannot reach high shelves, yet society survives. (Hmm, maybe height should be a disability. Oh, and tall people can bump their heads.)

Con's “inclusive society” argument is what I call a Delta House Argument. In the movie Animal House, a fraternity is threatened with expulsion for hosting drunken orgies. (see video for amusement) The line of argument is: “You can't attack our fraternity without attacking the fraternity system. You can't attack the fraternity system without attacking the education system. You can't attack the education system without attacking America. Well, I'm not going to stand here while you attack America!” The inclusive society argument is a preposterous overreach; Society does not depend on bureaucrats banning door knobs. Authoritarian uniformity does not equate to inclusiveness.

Employment and Hiring

If at best there is only a limited benefit to a subset of the disbled, and the disadvantage is lawsuit harassment, then the law should be repealed. Con has no data showing when hiring was achieved by merit rather than purely by intimidation. The government offers a company the alternative of hiring X as they demand, or suffering the full force of government legal attack.

The raw numbers show employment of the disabled decreased. Only academic rationalizations can make down become up. The underlying reasons for not hiring disabled people under ADA remain. The tens of thousands of lawsuits show hiring to be a risk. Con concedes that the government has lost a very high percentage of cases when the defendant can afford to challenge them.

Con did not dispute that under the 2010 revision, nearly every employee meets the definition of “disabled,” ushering in a new era of harassing litigation.

Con says that if the ADA is repealed, disabled people will have no remedy for unjust discrimination. That's wrong for the basic reason that there is a market for skills. Removing litigation fears promotes free market hiring. Moreover, states and localities can pass laws as they see fit.

Con did not contest that over-regulation is detrimental to the economy, Nothing promotes hiring like a strong need for employees.

Con's Counter Plan

Con's counter plan does not solve any of the cited defects of having a Federal bureaucracy replace local government: lack of cost/benefit concerns, enforcement by lawsuit intimidation, and isolation of bureaucrats from consequences. Con never explained how tax incentives would help businesses who pay no taxes because they are losing money. Con said it was okay to put a business under if they could not pay whatever the rules demand, and that is preferred. Any Federal law is contrary to the principle that local government best responds to local concerns and conditions.

The Debate

Con complains that he had to research the references. Sure, it's a complicated subject. I object to having to parse Con's jargon-filled and abbreviated arguments. A fluid exposition would have taken him twice the character count.

The two basic issues of the debate are (1) Is helping the disabled a job for a Federal bureaucracy immune from consequences? and (2) If taxpayers want to devote resources to solving a problem, shouldn't they get the bill for it?

Fairness and effectiveness demand that the ADA be repealed.




The Resolution asks whether the ADA ought to be repealed. If I show that the benefits of the ADA as is outweigh the disadvantages or if I show that amending the ADA yields better net benefits than repealing the ADA, I have disproven the Resolution and should win this debate.


My moral framework holds that in addition to individual rights, the social contract and participation in society creates obligations and duties between individuals. These duties flow from the democratic consent of the people and are therefore ethical. This is the status quo framework in the U.S. I have provided several examples of laws which compel individuals to uphold obligations to society at large. Nowhere do I deny that individuals have rights, I only make the claim that when we balance upholding societal obligations against individual rights we ought to prioritize the welfare of society. Additionally, protecting every individual’s equal access to societal goods such as transportation is at the heart of recognizing the equal value of every individual.

In order for Pro to gain moral leverage against the ADA, he must show that any shared sacrifice is prima facie immoral; Pro offers no such justification, he merely reiterates that he feels the ADA imposes too much of a burden on individuals without explaining why this is ethically problematic. Additionally, in order to win Framework Pro must in fact show that the ADA is an excessive burden; as I explain below, he has not done this.

Excessive Litigation

Pro has failed to demonstrate that the ADA creates lawsuits that are excessively burdensome. Seriously, just forget everything Pro has said about businesses going under because he has provided zero evidence that this even happens and zero evidence that the ADA has had ANY adverse effect on the economy in the past 20 years. Pro’s only evidence relates to one example in California that due to a State law which has already been corrected precisely for the reasons Pro complains about. Not only does this show that Pro’s complaints are no longer relevant, but it shows that the current system is self-correcting. Pro claims the ADA carries no consideration of cost/benefit, but the California case proves that legislation does react to flaws in implementation. Additionally, Pro concedes that the ADA does not allow for “professional plaintiffs” – these arise only under state law.

It is very difficult for plaintiffs to win discrimination cases under the ADA, 97% of cases are lost in court. Pro claims this somehow proves that the ADA works by intimidation, but offers no evidence to back this up.

Litigation is unfortunate but necessary. If businesses discriminate on the basis of disability they ought to be sued. My [7] demonstrates that these lawsuits help people were denied jobs and housing based solely on disability and [P9] showed that the ADA has had a massive impact on employers complying with accessibility standards. Society has an obligation to protect individual’s rights to equal accessibility, and litigation upholds this obligation.

The Counterplan solves litigation issues by banning plaintiff compensation, in effect preventing states from allowing plaintiff compensation. This ensures there is no profit motive in ADA related lawsuits.

Finally, the whole Delta House argument is a new argument in the final round, judges should ignore it.


Pro has no case on unsafe hiring- he provided one example in which the courts ruled that Exxon’s hiring practices were ok. There is a clear legal precedent, but the counterplan solves by further clarifying hiring procedures.


Pro’s own source says that the ADA has had a positive impact on disabled employment in localized areas of the economy. Pro can call this “academic rationalization” but this is from a source he brought in to support his point- apparently academics are only good when they support his case. Sources should go to Con because Pro misrepresented [P9] to claim the ADA has hurt employment- I’m not complaining that I had to do research, I am complaining that Pro claimed [P9] said one thing when in fact it says the opposite.

Pro has no response to my [5]- comparing pre and post ADA employment stats is difficult because people who were already unemployed were reclassified as disabled post-ADA.

Even if the ADA has not helped disabled employment, this is not a reason to repeal it- repealing the ADA won’t help employment so an ADA which does nothing to employment is a wash for Pro and Con. Only the counterplan boosts disabled employment. Amending the ADA to include more robust tax incentives for the hiring of disabled individuals will offset any perceived cost to employers. Pro’s own source [P8] points out that the EITC proves that a tax credit will have a positive effect on employment. Pro argues that this is only effective for profitable companies- fine, I concede that the counterplan only increases employment of disabled individuals at profitable companies. This is still a huge net benefit to the counterplan and a reason why we should amend the ADA rather than repeal it.

My Case

Pro does not dispute the massive good the ADA has done. He doesn’t contradict any of my [7], which talks about how buses are now 100% accessible, quadrupled curb ramp accessibility, altered building codes to consider accessibility, created closed captioning for TV, improved telecommunications, made public events like the Olympics accessible, brought government accessibility compliance up to 95%, etc. etc. etc. The ADA has altered the way society thinks about disabled individuals- transportation and infrastructure projects must now consider how both abled and disabled individuals will use these services. The ADA has made jobs more accessible and has had limited success in boosting employment per [P9].

Pro drops that legislation also acts as a statement of social vision- this was one of the crucial aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and it is also a crucial aspect of the ADA. The ADA is a statement that the U.S. government recognizes the challenges disabled individuals face and stands behind them on matters of equality. For thousands of Americans, repeal of the ADA would be a signal of disenfranchisement, a signal that they do not deserve the same access to employment and transportation as the rest of society. This is a hard to quantify, but very real impact on the quality of life of a sizeable portion of the population.

Finally, repeal is an end to the conversation about accessibility. It signals that the ADA was a failed experiment and that disabled individuals can deal with societal inequality on their own. Even as an imperfect law, the ADA stands as a moral commitment to strive for an accessible society- a commitment that propels legislators like those who passed the 2010 ADA amendment and fixed the California law. The conversation on accessibility is alive in the U.S. – we should amend the ADA to fix those aspects which do not function well while upholding our moral promise.


The Counterplan solves all of Pro’s complaints while maintaining the positive aspects of the ADA and boosting disabled employment. The Counterplan bans states from creating laws that creates “professional plaintiffs,” clarifies employment guidelines, and provides tax incentives for employment. If the ADA were so amended, any economic disadvantages to the ADA would disappear while the substantial benefits would remain in place. Only the counterplan boosts employment of disabled individuals- this alone outweighs the (unproven) allegations of economic damage done by the ADA. Finally, the counterplan in compliant with Pro’s moral framework by ensuring the burden of the ADA is distributed throughout society rather than on any particular individual. The ADA would allow legal recourse in cases of serious discrimination, uphold accessibility related business codes, and preserve the U.S. commitment to create and accessible society.

Debate Round No. 4
44 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 5 years ago

"I was talking about the general concept of offering alternative analyses in a debate. I think the generality is to say to the reader, "If you believe X then A is the solution, and if you believe Y then B is the solution. But both A nor B support affirming the resolution."


I agree with the above logic, but I did not see your videogames example conforming to it.

What I saw was:

If you believe [X] then [A] is the solution.
If you believe [NOT X] then [B] is the solution.

If [B] has any sort of validity to it, then [B] is potentially negating the resolution. It becomes extremely dangerous for someone taking on the position of [X] to advocate B to any degree.

This then makes it paramount to craft [X] so that if one truly believes that [B] is an amicable solution, that the advocacy of [B] does not result in [NOT X]. This is why I believe most debates are won or lost in the crafting of a resolution.
Posted by wrichcirw 5 years ago

"And who is it that is not providing the aid to disabled veterans? It is the Federal government. And why do they get away with? Because it's done by a Federal bureaucracy that is insulated from public outrage. Step one is to accept the principle that it's government's job to solve every problem. Step two is to then acknowledge that when they don't solve it, you have to accept whatever it is they do because you've killed the alternatives. Obama isn't going to get much of the military vote, so he doesn't care about veterans. The neglect is so obvious that now charities like Wounded Warriors are taking on more and more of the responsibility. People are discouraged from contributing because the government has taken on the primary responsibility."

Ok, I gave this some thought.

The bottom line is, like ADs (Americans with disabilities), vets typically cannot afford whatever it is being provided to them by the government. In the case of ADs, its a form of welfare, but for veterans, it's actually part of their employment contract. Therefore, it follows that private organizations would be much less involved in providing charitable care for veterans in this specific case, because doing so would be akin to providing charitable care for...I don't know...Cisco employees that didn't receive a paycheck on a given month. It's absurd because the employment contract ostensibly covers it. I don't see the whole (what I interpret as) 'lack of sense of responsibility' angle on the part of charities here.

This is negligence at the federal level. Typically this would lead to lawsuits, if not for the fact that the federal government is not liable for damages due to injuries sustained in combat...obviously it's in the military's best interest to keep soldiers healthy not only for readiness issues but for the sake of its own reputation, but it's not some sort of legal obligation.
Posted by wrichcirw 5 years ago

"It shouldnt matter how libertarians persinally feel about the arguments i made, they should be voting on who made better arguments in the round. Whats the point of even having the debate if ballots are made based on whether judges personally agree?"

Well, obviously a staunch libertarian would find an argument agreeable to his position to be "better". :)
Posted by Smithereens 5 years ago

That's a rather hefty over-exaggeration. I have read the debate and all the votes on this debate and would not be in the position to vote blindly. Giving an RFD takes a long time with all the pasting into word documents and all, so I am not going to give my own vote, only if the debaters are dissatisfied with the previous votes on the debate. You look for yourself. They are downright awful which isn't fair on these two debaters.
Posted by Noumena 5 years ago
@Raisor, I agree completely. I personally think Roy's arguments would have been superior if he hadn't gone with the moral absolutist contention in R2. But since he did the pragmatics/local government points didn't fit well and positively contradicted his affirmative framework. I don't see a legitimate reason for federal policies like the ADA but in the scope of debate it shouldn't be relevant.
Posted by Danielle 5 years ago
Both debaters had good conduct. I personally don't like the high weight of the Sources point in relevance to Arguments, but I think Con showed that he utilized his sources more honestly and with better relevance to his arguments. He also subjected Pro's sources to scrutiny that had an impact in the quality (strength) of arguments from both sides. As such he wins the Sources merit of the debate as well.

An excellent debate!
Posted by Danielle 5 years ago
Based on that powerful conclusion, Con negated Pro's final argument. Overall Pro (who has a higher burden of proof) failed to provide a substantial reason of why the ADA ought to be repealed. While I agree with a lot of the moral arguments he made (mostly because I am anti big government personally), I wasn't convinced on a cost/benefit analysis which was the crux of his argument. He was also very pro-business whereas Con was more pro-populace advocating on behalf of democratic principles. The problem with being so pro-business in this regard is that I was not convinced the business owner would lose substantially in profit (based on consumers absorbing costs) and also I felt that Con successfully argued that it was good for society as a whole if more disabled people had jobs or were not so blatantly inhibited from working.

I do think Pro won a very important point about unreasonable or unsafe hiring practices, though Con combated this by highlighting overt discrimination. Neither side provided significant examples either way outside of Pro's Exxon reference.

Con convinced me that all of Pro's concerns could be resolved or at least alleviated significantly through reformation of the ADA. Pro failed to convince me that the ADA is any more invasive, intrusive or detrimental than other standards of the status quo in terms of government mandates. He would have had to attack the entire system or legal framework a lot more.
Posted by Danielle 5 years ago
That brings us to the final point/conclusion. Pro points out that any of Con's counterplan does not address his final argument that the ADA is simply the wrong approach despite any changes. Why? Pro argues that a federal bureaucracy can not (should not) replace local government. Doing so would result in a lack of cost/benefit concerns (subsequently isolating bureaucrats from consequences), and encourage enforcement by lawsuit intimidation.

Con says that the counterplan solves all of Pro"s complaints while maintaining the positive aspects of the ADA (inclusion and employment). It addresses Roy's concerns about "professional plaintiffs," clarifies employment guidelines, and provides tax incentives for employment. If the ADA were amended in those ways, any alleged economic disadvantages to the ADA would dissipate while the benefits would remain in place. Con also notes that the counterplan is in compliant with Pro"s moral framework by ensuring the burden of the ADA is distributed throughout society rather than on any particular individual like the business owner. The ADA would allow legal recourse in cases of serious discrimination, uphold accessibility related business codes, and preserve the U.S. commitment to create and accessible society.
Posted by Danielle 5 years ago
On excessive litigation, Pro would have had to prove that the ADA in particular brought on unreasonable lawsuits in immense volume that caused more harm than good. While he focused on threats to the business owner in particular, the ADA like all other laws are *supposed* to work through intimidation. The fact that 97% of lawsuits are won by defendants means the ADA does not punish business owners unfairly. The reality that bringing about a lawsuit and the subsequent costs thereof (and how those costs are financed) reflect a problem of the ENTIRE legal system in general, and do not apply to this law specifically or on average more than other laws (such as the Civil Rights Act or any other similar laws).

People should be able to use the laws to their advantage - otherwise they're bad laws. Bad laws are passed all the time. Pot laws are STUPID and costly but I have to abide by them as should business owners be expected to follow the rules. We should assume that bad laws/ regulation will go away, or if not, too bad that's the nature of the legal system. Again, Pro didn't argue well enough against upholding that piss poor status quo. This is why the social contract sucks, FYI :)
Posted by Danielle 5 years ago
In terms of hiring those with disabilities, while I personally agree with Pro, I thought Con was correct to point out that the ADA contains provisions to protect businesses with reasonable clauses that create exceptions for "business necessity" and "excessive cost." Pro says that Pro didn't prove any handicapped hiring was based on merit and not intimidation, but that was not relevant to Con's argument. Con argued that the ADA encouraged disability hiring, but not that this was necessarily beneficial to society - only to that minority. As such I didn't consider this a point in favor of Con. I agree with Con that tax incentives would encourage more disability hiring in some industries, but "inclusion" was not expanded on or a good enough argument to defend this as a positive practice. He also quasi-conceded (seemingly) in the last round that only amending the ADA significantly might help employing the disabled.

I agree with Roy that the ADA might facilitate unsafe or unreasonable hiring practices, but that relies mostly on potential hypotheticals (hard to measure) or rare instances such as the Exxon case which was corrected. Meanwhile I don't think that Con made a strong point in his favor here either; he seemed to go back on the idea that the ADA strongly helped employment, though the conflicting info in the sources challenged Roy's assertion as well. These contentions result in a tie in terms of judging from my humble perspective.
18 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 11 through 18 records.
Vote Placed by EvanK 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Good debate all around, but more convincing arguments by pro. Sources also go to pro.
Vote Placed by FrackJack 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I thought this was a pretty even debate. I thought Roy's sources were a tad better.
Vote Placed by InquireTruth 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: My bias stated: I think both the ADA and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unconstitutionally expanded federal power and should never have been adopted. That said, I tried not to bring to bear on this debate either my bias or the bias that Raisor desperately wished we all adopted, namely the ostensibly "status quo" paradigm of hid quasi absolutist inclusivism. The reality is that the ADA is an economic blunder that hurts economic stability with excessively strict and increasingly obscure laws. Raisor did, in my mind, win some important source points and subsequently took away the "reliable sources" category. However, unless you took for granted his inclusive paradigm from the onset, you're unlikely to find his arguments convincing upon conclusion. Conduct: Roy. I thought the inclusivist paradigm was surreptitious propaganda (and absolutist ideal for an otherwise antiabsolutist). S&G: Roy (bc sources worth 1 point) Convincing Arguments: Roy. Sources: Raisor per Roy's inaccurat
Vote Placed by utahjoker 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro shows the weakness in ADA while giving better solution to the problem
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments - excellent debate, a clear analytical victory to CON
Vote Placed by Noumena 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Anjou 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: At first I didn't believe that the ADA should be repealed because it protects those who do have some kind of mental or physical impediment from being discriminated against in the workplace or at a job interview. However, I saw a few faults in both cases, but am more able to understand pro's point, therefore my votes go mostly to pro in this debate.
Vote Placed by ClassicRobert 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Prior to the debate, I had little to no knowledge of the subject, and no opinion. They both debated well, which is why most of the voting points are tied, but my opinion is now closer to that of RoyLatham, so he won the convincing arguments points.