2020 marks the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. It was enacted to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in locations generally open to the public.
The ADA specified that businesses and property owners were responsible for making their locations accessible for people with disabilities.
The ADA was enacted before the digital age and before our world changed with the ubiquitous usage of the Internet as a mainstream tool between 1995-1999.
This massive sea-change in accessibility of information, often considered the greatest technological advancement in our lifetimes, created one new challenge: Does everyone have equal access to the internet?
20% of your website traffic could come from users with some sort of disability. Are you ready for them and are you accommodating their needs? Is your website in ADA compliance? If you site is not in compliance here is a solution. Why is compliance important? Please read on.
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Although we still have work to do to continue providing access to the disabled, there have been a number of noteworthy achievements to celebrate. The work began with a focus on providing physical access in the real world.
History of Access 1990 – 2005
Able body Americans often take access for granted. The following is a list according to ADA.gov of a “sampling of the diverse types of buildings and facilities that were the subject of Department of Justice resolutions to increase physical accessibility in the first 15 years of the ADA’s history:”
- Empire State Building (NYC)
- Olympic Stadium (Atlanta)
- Apollo Theater (NYC)
- Yankee Stadium (NYC)
- Duke University (Durham)
- Radio City Music Hall (NYC)
- Washington Opera (Washington D.C/Kennedy Center)
- Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg)
- Dillard University (New Orleans)
History of Access 2006 – 2020
A sampling of buildings and facilities that were the subject of Department of Justice resolutions to increase physical accessibility in the second 15 years of the ADA’s history:
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Indianapolis)
- Madison Square Garden (NYC)
- Mills College (Oakland)
- Nationals Park (Washington D.C.)
- Mount Vernon (Mt. Vernon)
- Idaho State Capitol (Boise)
- Milwaukee Riverwalk (Milwaukee)
30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Role of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been the enforcement arm providing protections and vindicating the rights of people with disabilities across the United States.
The Civil Rights Division runs the day to day oversight to ensure disabled citizens’ rights through mediation, technical assistance, engagement and outreach, and ultimately enforcement when necessary.
According to ADA.gov:
“Since 2017, the department has entered into more than 200 agreements to further accessibility for people with disabilities. From ensuring equal employment opportunities to ensuring equal access to polling places; from ensuring inclusive childcare and schools to ensuring nondiscriminatory health care — the breadth of the division’s work reflects the remarkable breadth of the statute itself.”
6 Important Areas of ADA Enforcement
Imagine for a moment that you are bound to a wheelchair. Before the ADA of 1990, simply going to an office building, store, school, or a home was nearly impossible due to the lack of ramps, handrails, elevators, or platform lifts.
Basic life needs critical to all of us were even more challenging to access due to the lack of infrastructure and legislation supporting the disabled.
Ultimately, all aspects of life where disabled people feel discriminated against, because they can not access something, are extremely important. Here are six examples of the ADA at work for our country.
Healthcare, Medical Access
One of the most critically important aspects of life for Americans is the ability to physically access their healthcare facilities. The ADA protects equal access to providers like:
- Doctor’s offices
The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative ensures that people with disabilities have access to health care, without physical, attitudinal, or communication barriers.
The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative recognizes that transportation serves as the bridge to participation in all aspects of community life.
Because mobility is a major challenge for the disabled, the act of just getting from place to place and appointment to appointment can be daunting at times. The department, ultimately, continues to aggressively enforce the ADA’s guarantees of equal and increased access to public and private transportation:
- City buses
- Commuter rail systems
- Subway stations
Access to Education
ADA protections for access to education spans the gamut from preschool and early learning centers to post graduate institutions so that every student with a disability has the opportunity for an equal education. Prior to COVID-19, remote learning was not the norm so for disabled students it was imperative to gain physical access to these institutions of education. The ADA provided this access as often as possible.
Employment Opportunity Access
The department’s goal is to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to pursue their career goals and choice of occupation. Accessible work spaces, offices and building access helps disabled Americans confidently move forward in their search for the right job for them and their families.
Equal Access to Housing
The ADA works to help disabled Americans an equal opportunity to acquire or rent the appropriate housing for their needs. Included in this goal is the accessibility to real estate rental offices as well as challenging discriminatory zoning laws.
Access to Voting Rights
More critically important than ever before, the department’s ADA Voting Initiative helps disabled voters with the right to exercise the most fundamental of American rights: the right to vote for their political choices.
Guaranteed along with access to voting rights is the ability for “same level of independence and privacy as voters without disabilities.”
A Final Thought Worth Remembering
As we look back at the 30th anniversary of the ADA, let’s remember the importance of the ADA as communicated in 1990:
“Our success with this act proves that we are keeping faith with the spirit of our courageous forefathers who wrote in the Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.’ . . . Today’s legislation brings us closer to that day when no Americans will ever again be deprived of their basic guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” –President George H.W. Bush 1990