July 26th, 2013 marks the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which, through its implementation, has served Americans with disabilities in their homes, schools, jobs, and communities. In celebration of the ADA’s anniversary, we will discuss what the ADA is and how it has benefited Americans with disabilities.
The ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26th, 1990. As one of the US’s most comprehensive civil rights legislation pieces, it prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and guarantees that they have the same opportunities as all other Americans to participate in employment, use public services, access public accommodations such as restaurants, and participate in state and local government programs and services. The ADA’s five titles are Employment (Title I), State and Local Government (Title II), Public Accommodations (includes private businesses – Title III), Telecommunications (Title IV), and Transportation and Miscellaneous Provisions (Title V). Disability is defined under the ADA as “physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activity,” a recorded physical or mental impairment, and “individuals who are regarded as having an impairment, whether they have an impairment or not.” (ADA National Network) However, a list of covered disabilities is not included in the ADA and the definition of disability does not include common personality traits, simple physical characteristics, or disadvantages that are environmental, cultural, or economic in nature.
The ADA helps to break down the barriers to employment, transportation, public accommodations and services, and telecommunications for people with disabilities. In the 23 years since being signed into law, the ADA has created a more inclusive climate: companies, institutions, and organizations are reaching out more often to, and are more accessible for, people with disabilities; institutions of higher education accommodate more people with disabilities and provide support and accessibility through their disability services offices; universal design increasingly common in architecture and technology; and overall awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities. The influence of the ADA extends globally as the inspiration for the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
If you have questions or need information, guidance, and training on the ADA, please visit the ADA National Network. To learn more about the CRPD, please visit the UN to learn about the latest developments and which countries have ratified the CRPD.