Sunday, July 26th, 2020, marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA remains one of the most influential pieces of legislation that strives to provide equal opportunity for Americans with disabilities. It was created to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in various aspects of life, including employment, transportation, communication, and accessibility. The primary goals of the ADA are to ensure equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.
Title I (Employment): Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities and prohibits discrimination based on disability, in all aspects of employment.
Title II (Public Services): Public services cannot deny services to people with disabilities or deny participation in programs or activities that are available to people without disabilities. In addition, public transportation systems, such as public transit buses, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Title III (Public Accommodations): Public accommodations include facilities such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, movie theatres, retail stores, etc., as well as privately owned transportation systems. Title III requires that all new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed, if readily achievable.
Title IV (Telecommunications): Telecommunications companies offering telephone service to the public must have telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or similar devices.
Title V (Miscellaneous): This title includes a provision prohibiting either (a) coercing or threatening or (b) retaliating against individuals with disabilities or those attempting to aid people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA.
While the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) was signed into law and was an incredible milestone in the fight for equality, there are still miles to go for a truly inclusive and accessible world. Many buildings, both public and private, are exempt from ADA compliance because they were built before the ADA became law. Many schools ignore or do the bare minimum in terms of inclusion requirements, and many digital accessibility barriers exist today.
The ADA is a monumental win that came after decades of tireless efforts from advocates and should serve as a reminder and inspiration to continue to fight for the advancement of people with disabilities. Celebrating and spreading awareness about the ADA is a small step in the right direction.
Now we must ask ourselves, what can we do to create more change in our communities? How can we make an impact by bringing disability, justice, and advocacy to the forefront?