Last summer, amid the COVID pandemic, the groundbreaking civil rights law silently turned 30. Due to 2020 health concerns, most public gatherings and celebrations were put on hold, and LIFE at RCIL (Independently Living is for Everyone at RCIL) was unable to publicly mark the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
LIFE at RCIL celebrates the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act every year because, as former Arizona Senator John Kyl once said, “is a celebration of the unique American idea that all of our citizens can contribute to society when we do give them the tools and opportunities they need. ”
On July 26, 1990, the ADA came into force. It prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life; Employers and government agencies, including schools, restaurants, public transportation, healthcare, and communications providers, must provide full access to the services and programs that most Americans enjoy.
But is the ADA still relevant and effective after 30 years? Can communities move forward based on the safeguards contained in the ADA? In short, how are we?
These questions are not always easy to answer. There are no reporting obligations for the ADA as in other civil rights laws, since the ADA is a “voluntary compliance law”; in the expectation that all concerned will support the law. However, this has not always been the case. There are revolutionary changes in the way people with disabilities were recognized in the groundbreaking ADA legislation that rocked a society that all too often did not recognize the existence of over 13% of the US population.
In the ADA’s 30-year history, people with disabilities continued to be marginalized and met with resistance as they tried to move forward. In 1999, the Supreme Court narrowed the ADA’s definition of what “disability” was and who could benefit under the law, essentially restricting access to a law that promised the elimination of discrimination. In 2008, Congress passed a new law that refined that decision, stating that the ADA should be an inclusive document that opened the doors of society.
But despite the pressure between those who think the ADA hasn’t gone far enough and those who think the ADA has gone too far, people with disabilities keep putting this 30 year old legislation into practice successfully a. lead full active lives in their communities and in the world.
Ultimately, the ADA was both the foundation and the door that gave many Americans access to meaningful opportunity. The entry requirements outlined in the ADA have changed the way people with disabilities vote, travel, receive education, communicate, work and socialize. But the problems that people with disabilities still face cannot all be eliminated or resolved by installing a ramp. It can take longer to remove some lingering social prejudices.
There is a whole generation of optimistic young Americans with disabilities who believe in equal opportunities because of the sweeping reforms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While we continue to promote proactive change in our society, the ADA remains an effective tool for all of us to change American life for the better.
LIFE at RCIL attorneys want to ensure that your rights to independent living and equal access and opportunities to participate in our communities are respected. Job seekers support people with disabilities in finding work. Employers interested in hiring people with disabilities are also welcome to give us a call. Contact LIFE at RCIL at 315-797-4642 or toll-free at 1-800-627-2981.