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HouseAccessibility 06-23

House to improve accessibility for handicapped

By STEPHANIE S. GARLOW

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — House leaders announced Monday that they plan to install wheelchair lifts in their chamber so that people with disabilities will have access to the speaker’s podium.

The renovations — which will allow people in wheelchairs to reach the speaker’s rostrum, where the leaders of the House work — are expected to be completed next year.

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"Our commitment to a barrier-free workplace sends an invaluable message to all Americans that the House will lead by example," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.

The announcement comes as the House is set to consider legislation that would broaden the definition of disability in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Since Congress requires businesses across the country to accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities, it is fitting that we should follow the rules we set for others," Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said.

The changes are aimed at making it possible for lawmakers and staff to access the podium. The House has been working to improve the accessibility of the Capitol and its office buildings. The Capitol Visitor Center, which will open late this year, will completely conform to ADA regulations.

"I have long said that I may be the first quadriplegic in Congress, but I certainly won’t be the last, and I know this change will benefit many in the future," said Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.

The plans were announced by Pelosi, Boehner and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. They did not immediately say how much the renovations would cost.

The Senate added ramps to its chamber after Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat who used a wheelchair after losing both legs and an arm in Vietnam, was elected in 1996.

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The ADA bill is H.R. 3195.

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On the Net:

House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/

For bill text: http://thomas.loc.gov.

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