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A House-Senate conference approved landmark legislation Monday protecting the rights of the disabled after eliminating a provision excluding AIDS-infected workers from the bill.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed earlier by both chambers, would bar discrimination of the disabled in employment, public services, public accommodations and transportation.

The House last month approved a provision proposed by Rep. Jim Chapman, D-Texas, allowing employers to move workers with infectious or communicable diseases from food-handling jobs to other jobs with no pay cut.

The Senate later instructed its members of the House-Senate conference committee to accept the Chapman amendment.

Opponents protested that it would discriminate against sufferers of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, even though the disease is not passed through food.

But North Carolina Republican Jesse Helms said a restaurant could be put out of business by a public perception of a health risk from AIDS.

Although both the House and Senate were on record as supporting the amendment, the conference eliminated it before approving a compromise version of the Senate and House bills.

The bill now goes to the two chambers for final approval and then will be sent to President Bush for signature into law.

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