Thirty years ago, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was the first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities. As we celebrate the ADA’s 30th anniversary this year, Galt Foundation examines the ADA’s history and the impacts that this legislation has had on the everyday lives of Americans with disabilities, including the protections it offers.
This year, our nation celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which created the foundation of rights for people with disabilities all over America.
The past three decades have marked considerable achievements for civil rights within the United States. Accessibility and inclusion for persons with disabilities continue to grow into new spaces because of the establishment of the ADA.
In the decades before the national legislation was signed, opportunities for learning and growth were limited. Individuals with disabilities were denied many civil rights including access to employment, public services, and medical treatments, to name a few.
What is the ADA?
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law, making it the first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities.
The ADA defines a person with a disability as someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, someone who has a history or record of such an impairment, or someone who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The legislation makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their disability.
As such, the ADA provides equal opportunity and provides civil rights protections for individuals with disabilities in almost all aspects of life, including public spaces, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. It offers protections against discrimination and has helped usher in accessibility requirements in these areas.
Impacts of the ADA
The ADA marked the start of many changes that have significantly improved the lives of millions of Americans.
This law opened doors to new opportunities and broke down barriers in everyday life. For example, Braille signs and crosswalk buttons are required for individuals with vision loss. Another example includes updated construction codes which require that doorways and bathroom stalls be accessible for people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids. These improvements have increased mobility and safety for not only individuals with disabilities but the entire community.
In addition, the ADA provides persons with disabilities access to better employment opportunities. Applicants are provided with accommodations if needed and employers’ mindsets about the capabilities of individuals with disabilities have evolved.
Access to information through sign language interpreters, captioning, software that can read information on the computer, and better web navigation tools also enable Americans with disabilities to work and live more independently.
While the ADA has propelled the country towards improved access and inclusion, the fight has not just been about ramps, closed captioning, or competitive wages. It is also about human dignity and the right to live free.
Today, the perception of what it means to live with disabilities continues to evolve. Medical conditions and their associated symptoms are a part of everyday life for so many Americans; however, people with disabilities continue to persevere and contribute to our communities in meaningful ways through their work and various social involvement.
It is important for everyone to empower the people around them, because this is how real cultural change takes place. One way to build this sense of empowerment is by speaking up against discrimination when you see it.
If you are an individual with a disability who needs help finding employment, or you know of someone who is, Galt Foundation can help. Get in touch with our qualified associates here, or call us at 1-877-361-1277, and we’d be more than happy to help.