Senator Cranston insists Secretary Califano to sign Section 504

Using tough anti-discrimination language, Senator Alan Cranston insists Secretary Califano sign the Section 504 regulations unchanged. Page two of Cranston’s letter warns against creating too much red tape.


United States Senate
Committee on Human Resources, Washington D.C. 20510

April 22, 1977

Honorable Joseph A. Califano
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare,
Washington D.C. 20201

Dear Joe,

I want to stress as strongly as possible several thoughts with respect to any changes you may be considering in the January 21 draft of the rehabilitation Act section 504 regulations:

We in Congress remain firmly committed to ending completely the present segregation of, and the present discrimination against, handicapped individuals in our society. Section 504 – which, as you know, I coauthored with Senators Randolph, Stafford, Williams, and Javits - - embodies that commitment.

Tough, effective regulations implementing section 504 should be issued now, and they should be fully and forcefully implemented so as to achieve the objectives of section 504 at the earliest possible moment. For far too long, handicapped individuals have been closed off from the mainstream of life’s opportunities. Section 504, and the regulations you must approve for its implementation, are their way into our society. Every potential barrier should be cleared from the path of disabled Americans who are desperately and courageously fighting for the basic human rights and freedoms to which, as Americans, they are fully entitled.

Therefore, I categorically reject any notion that a “separate but equal” approach is an acceptable way of dealing with the civil rights of disabled persons. There is a fear that some such notion may be motivating some people in your Department. I call upon you to repudiate any “separate but equal” intent in the regulations you promulgate.

Access is the key to full participation in our society. Failure to achieve full access for all citizens to activities receiving Federal financial assistance is unacceptable to handicapped Americans, unacceptable to me, and, I trust, unacceptable to you as well. Let me comment on one particular issue that has arisen due to reports – or rumors – regarding your proposed revision of the regulations: It is equally unacceptable for there to be any action that would automatically exempt planned but unbuilt structures from the requirements of full accessibility to all.

Finally, I view as unacceptable any attempt to load the regulations with avenues for waivers and exceptions that serve only to generate paperwork and litigation as the expense of investigation, compliance, and enforcement activities.

I would urge this:

That the January 21 regulations be considered presumptively valid, and that you do not approve any changes except those needed to make sure that the goals of section 504 are in fact achieved.

The January 21 regulations that Secretary Matthews passed on to you represent years of discussions and negotiations among all interested parties. You are not writing on a clean slate. Given this background, I believe you must bear the burden of justifying not only to handicapped Americans, but to all citizens and the Congress, any changes that you make.

With best regards Sincerely Alan Cranston
cc: Honorable Jimmy Carter