April 8, 1977
Honorable Joseph A. Califano
Secretary, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 330 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington D.C. 20201
Dear Mr. Califano:
AFGE Local #3159 strongly urges you to sign the regulations to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, without change to the draft as of January 21, 1977.
Historically, disabled individuals have been denied basic human rights and decent occupational opportunities. Handicapped individuals are frequently denied jobs for which their disability would render them no less capable than other workers. Many employers refuse to make slight modifications in the work arrangements, which would enable disabled persons to be contributing partners in the mainstream of economic life. As if to add insult to injury, many handicapped individuals are denied even the basic services of government for which they are taxed, because planners and architects have excluded them from the model.
In our own Regional Office, even though we have a contract provision guaranteeing equal employment opportunity without regard to physical handicap, we have seen no affirmative action to eliminate discrimination against the disabled.
Eventually, in 1973, legislation was passed which attempted to remove barriers and attack the discrimination faced by so many individuals. After three and one-half years, the ray of hope which was P.L. 93-112 has grown weaker and weaker, giving rise to despair, frustration, and finally to the anger which we have witnessed this week in your and our offices.
For four days, we employees of DHEW Region IX, have been visited by disabled residents of our own community. They have expresses to us their concerns that Section 504 may be watered down beyond usefulness by presently contemplated changes in the draft regulations. They feel that the regulations, as presently written, while perhaps imperfect, are nevertheless a minimal step, which the Department is morally obliged to take.
Mr. Califano, we, as employees of HEW, have seen regulations implemented which later were changed. If you feel there are substantive inadequacies in the present draft, there are procedures to amend regulations after they have been implemented. But we ask you to make any fine tune adjustments later. AFGE Local #3159 urges you to sign “504” NOW!
Ian Robert McLean
President, AFGE Local #3159