The ADA Celebrates 29 Years

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Confetti background with Seymour wearing a party hat, blowing a noise maker, and pointing to the words, "Happy 29th Anniversary ADA"

Today is a Reason for Celebration, Reflection, and Action

On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. That means we’ve had 29 years of the ADA! To date, the ADA is the most solid law helping people with disabilities.

It might surprise you to learn that the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not include people with disabilities. That’s why the signing of the ADA by President Bush is so important; it protects the civil rights of people with disabilities. So, it took 26 years for people with disabilities to have the same civil rights as other minorities and Americans.

Why Did Equality Take So Long?

Until the veterans of World War II came home, it was uncommon to see people with disabilities in the community. Like most families, the families of veterans with disabilities advocated for fair treatment and rights for their loved ones. The problem was that they were speaking on an individual basis and did not draw enough attention for a real change.

Many children with disabilities were living in facilities or a State Education Program far from their homes. As a result, the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality was masking the reality of people needing equal access and fair treatment.

Power in NumbersEight multi-colored hands raised in the air with heart shapes in the palms

After the passing of the Civil Rights Laws, advocates and those with disabilities took note; unity was what worked for civil rights. So, advocates, families, and people with disabilities spoke up and championed one specific message of equality. They demanded equality, independence,  fair treatment, and accessibility to goods, services, and communication.

In 1973, people with disabilities gained some of their civil rights with the Rehabilitation Act. However, equality was limited to federal organizations and federally funded programs. The 1973 Rehabilitation Act was a foot-in-the-door for people with disabilities. In 1975, parents kicked the door open. The signing of the Education for All Handicap Children Act followed. This Act became known in 1990 as the Individual Education Act (IDEA) and is a big part of the education system for children with disabilities.

By coming together and using freedom of speech, people with disabilities, their families, and advocates were vital to the passing of the ADA.

Strengthening The ADA

In 2008, amendments were made to better define the ADA. The changes came in 2017 and widened the scope of what defines having a disability. The amendment also strengthens equal access for people in public accommodations; also known as Title III organizations.

The ADA created a framework for equality. But, the context means nothing without compliance from organizations. We are seeing judges and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) show little mercy when it comes to blatant ADA violations and with good cause. As the ADA reaches 29 years as a Federal Law, advocates are hopeful that the civil rights of all people will be respected and protected.

The US Census Bureau reported over 40 million Americans (noninstitutionalized) are living with a disability. Over 40 million people depend on ADA compliance to maintain some level of independence. That is a lot of people counting on accessibility.

It’s Not Too Late

The anniversary of the signing of the ADA is the perfect day to make sure you’re compliant. It’s not too late to catch up to 29 years of law. Start by consulting with or hiring an ADA compliance officer. Then, learn where you need to improve your ADA compliance, create a plan, and adhere to it.

You know what they say, “Better late than never.”

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This post was written by Christine Sket

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