Happy Birthday, ADA! 33 Years of Success with Many More to Come.

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  • Happy birthday, ADA!

Quick Takeaways

  • The law that greatly improved the civil rights and equal treatment of people with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act, turns 33 this year.
  • This law applies to public-facing privately-owned organizations and state and local governments.
  • The ADA requires the removal of both physical and communication barriers.
  • 1 in 4 American adults is living with a disability of some type.
  • Providing your customers with accessible documents like braille, large print, audio, and accessible PDFs helps your organization comply with ADA standards and give your customers a great experience.

Several balloons on strings in the air

Throwback to 1990

July 26 holds great significance for Americans, even though many may not know it. It’s the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming law in 1990. Happy birthday, ADA! This law improved the civil rights of millions of Americans and was a step toward equal treatment, so it’s a day worth celebrating.

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act was law, people with disabilities encountered exclusion and unnecessary hurdles in many aspects of their daily lives. There were often barriers to accessing goods, services, and information. Did you know that it was legal to discriminate against and not hire people with disabilities before the ADA was passed?

When President George H. W. Bush signed the act, he said something that sadly rang true for many: “Let the shameful wall of exclusion, finally come tumbling down.”

5 Titles Worth Celebrating

Let’s dive deeper into what the Americans with Disabilities Act says.

Title I ensures that people with disabilities have equal access to employment opportunities and benefits. This section of the law requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.

Titles II and III prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in public settings. Title II focuses on how state and local governments can be more inclusive. It outlines how agencies can remove physical and communication barriers. This includes architectural barriers and methods of communication that customers will encounter.

Title III deals with privately-owned public-facing organizations. These businesses include hotels, private schools, doctor’s offices, and restaurants. Like Title II, it provides direction for removing physical and communication barriers.

Title IV requires telephone and internet companies to make their services accessible to people with speech or hearing disabilities. 

Title V deals with the law’s provisions and lists conditions that are not considered disabilities.

Why The ADA Matters

We often take being able to do mundane activities for granted. When we enter a restaurant, we assume we’ll be able to read the menu. When we receive mail from our bank or doctor, we expect to be able to read it. But what if we couldn’t? How would we get the information we need?

Many people with visual disabilities have had to rely on sighted people to read things to them. However, this isn’t always appropriate. In a restaurant, a person with blindness may need the waiter or a friend to read the menu if no braille menu is available. They may also need someone to read their financial statements or medical information if their bank and doctors don’t provide accessible formats. So, at best, having someone read out information to a person with a visual impairment can be time-consuming and make the person with a visual disability feel awkward. At worst, it is an invasion of their privacy.

The removal of communication barriers improves the civil rights of people with disabilities. This is just one example of why the ADA matters.

collage of people's faces

Before the ADA

The ADA was not the first disability law, but it was revolutionary. Before the ADA, there was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You may have heard of this law, especially if you work for a federal agency. The law still benefits all people with disabilities today, primarily in Sections 501 (employment), 504 (accommodations and modifications), and 508 (digital accessibility). However, this law only applies to federal agencies and organizations that receive federal funding, meaning many companies do not have to comply with it.

You Can Make a Difference

Accessibility is here to stay, and your customer communication is important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 American adults live with a disability. So, it is likely that some of your customers have disabilities and would benefit from accessibility and ADA compliance in your organization.

Your organization can positively impact your customers’ lives by providing them with documents they can understand. Not only do accessible documents improve communication, but they also let your customers remain independent. 

Remember, people with disabilities don’t all have the same needs. For example, people with visual disabilities should be offered a variety of accessible document formats such as braille, large print, audio, and accessible PDF. This ensures they receive the format with which they are most comfortable.

The Americans with Disabilities Act marked significant progress for the civil rights of people with disabilities. This is why we say, “Happy birthday, ADA!” Being ADA-compliant is more than just checking a box. It affirms that your organization cares about its customers and wants to provide them with the best possible experience. Together we can Make The World A More Readable Place™.

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This post was written by Braille Works

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