The Americans with Disabilities act was passed and signed by George H.W Bush on July 26th,1990. After years of activism, the new law prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in multiple areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services. That same month, Boston held the first Disability Pride Day. Since then, Disability Pride Month was adopted and celebrated throughout the country in July every year. AmeriDisability describes Disability Pride as “accepting and honoring each person’s uniqueness and seeing it as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity.”
More than 160 million people in the United States live with a chronic disease and disabilities in the U.S. Here’s a breakdown of what the ADA covers and to shed light on why so many people with disabilities fought so hard to receive equal rights and liberties. With the help of adata.org, the various areas the bill covers are:
Title I – Employment
It’s very refreshing to see people with disabilities working as lawyers, actors, managers, and other professions once considered to be unworkable by people with cognitive or physical impairments. Now more than ever, people with disabilities feel empowered enough and inspired to pursue their dreams and become whoever they want to be. I’ve seen stories all over of people with disabilities opening their own stores, becoming Instagram models, or taking home medals in Olympic competitions. More than ever, people are transitioning more to the mindset that having disabilities means different, like someone missing an arm, instead of incompetent like a person without a brain, heart, eyes, arms, or legs.
Title II – Public Services: State and Local Government
Let’s remember that the first word in the ADA act is “Americans”. It is a well known fact that most Americans, with or without disabilities are usually in a rush and need to get from point A to point B. So the next time you’re tempted to park in a handicap spot, don’t! They’re there for a reason and a walk never hurt anyone.
State and local governments have been required to provide accommodations, like ramps so public entities and programs are accessible to all. Everyone has to deal with obstacles in their life and the last thing people need are a literal obstacle, like a ledge to the staircase in order to enter a building for a job interview or to lift weights at the gym.
Title III – Public Accommodations & Services Operated by Private Entities
Hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, and other places of public accommodations are required to accommodate and ensure people with all abilities are able to access their places of establishment. If someone were to deny you at their door to eat a meal and pay with your hard earned money, don’t forget you can call the police and they would (I think) arrest the manager, or at least give them a fine. If you need an establishment that serves your favorite burritos to install a rail for you to access the line, the Department of Justice will have your back and by golly, the restaurant will install the rail! In all seriousness, the ADA, “Directs businesses to make reasonable modifications to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities.” That includes installing a rail, or marking a parking spot as handicap only. Everyone wants to feel welcome and doing the little things goes a long way. Besides, who wants to lose out on business anyways?
Title IV – Telecommunications
Talking on the phone, what a thing of the past! FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, you name it, the digital age has it. Without possibly knowing it, engineers and computer programmers opened a whole new world for people that are deaf, blind, or have speech impediments. The ADA, “Requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of telecommunication relay services that allow people with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone”, as well as television. That’s why you always see a sign language interpreter standing next to the president and many other televised events! This is all enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). One of the FCC’s main goals is to, “Promote competition, innovation and investment in broadband services and facilities.” It’s important that all people, with or without disabilities are able to communicate effectively and with the peace of mind that the ADA has you covered!
Title V: Transportation
Transportation offered by state and local government have to follow the same rules as public entities, except ones that move! Public funded transportation usually includes bus and passenger rail trail service. Before self driving cars, specially customed steering wheels were invented for people with disabilities, used to steer the car, accelerate, decelerate, etc. I can say personally how empowered and independent I felt when I was able to drive to school for the first time. I can only imagine the sense of independence people with disabilities felt once technology came out allowing people to acquire that same independence. I hope, after self driving cars, there will be self driving motorcycles! That would be very cool to watch once passed as road safe of course. Until then, self driving cars and people who provide direct support have certainly made driving possible for all!
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed learning more about the ADA during Disability Pride Month.