Since May, the California Legislature has provided ADA accommodation for people disabled by electromagnetic sensitivities (EMS). This is the first California legislative session to acknowledge EMS and to arrange accommodation and access for the EMF-disabled so that they can participate at hearings.
On Wednesday, July 12, California Assembly leaders provided the most extensive accommodation to date at a hearing on Senate Bill 649 (Hueso). Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee Chairman Miguel Santiago said, “The Assembly’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator has received multiple requests for accommodation from individuals wishing to participate in this hearing,” and ”in an attempt to accommodate as many individuals as possible,” the committee a) made a special order of business with a “time certain” for the SB 649 hearing, so those with EMS could arrive for the hearing and then leave, reducing their EMF exposure b) provided remote telephone access for those too disabled by the indoor air quality to testify in person, and c) made a request to the audience to turn off the wireless on their cell phones or put them in airplane mode “as a courtesy to the electromagnetically sensitive.”
In a 1998 survey by the California Department of Health Services , 3.2% of respondents reported electromagnetic sensitivities, and .5% were unable to work or had to leave a job due to EMS. In 2001, California developed a Cleaner Air symbol for rooms and paths of travel that include reduced EMF. Disability due to electromagnetic sensitivities was recognized by the U.S. Federal Access Board in 2002, and the California State Architect’s office helped write the recommendations for accommodating those with EMS and with multiple chemical sensitivities published in the 2005 Federal Access Board report “Indoor Environmental Quality”.
Though additional measures and continuing dialogue are needed to accommodate all those who wish to attend state hearings and testify, particularly on matters related to their disability, this is a welcome first step for the disabled rights of these Californians.