Jun 17, 2020

A Brief History of the ADA

President George HW Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act. He is surrounded by several people, included someone who uses a wheelchair
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), one of the most important and wide-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. History. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA was meant to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens, regardless of their disability status. It prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability and guarantees access to employment opportunities, schools, transportation, and public and private spaces that are open to the public.

The ADA includes five sections, also called “Titles,” each applying to a different area of life.

  • Title I, Employment, provides equal opportunities in the job force for people with disabilities. One important part of this section is the requirement for employers to make “reasonable accommodations,” or modifications to allow an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job.
  • Title II focuses on state and local government and requires equal access to government services, including public transportation.
  • Title III, Public Accommodations, requires private places that are open to the public, such as hotels, restaurants, and retail businesses, to make reasonable modifications to the way they do business so people with disabilities can access those places.
  • Title IV, Telecommunications, requires telephone and internet companies to provide nationwide services that can be used by people with hearing and speech disabilities. This section also requires closed captioning on federally funded public service announcements.
  • The final section of the law, Title V, deals with miscellaneous provisions, including items related to insurance providers, attorney’s fees, and preventing retaliation.

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we recognize the monumental importance of this piece of legislation. As local advocate Rev. Robert Harris put it, “The ADA means inclusion. It means the opportunity to be thought of and considered as a human being. ”

This wide-ranging civil rights law allows people with disabilities to participate in important parts of American life, but we also know that progress can still be made in many of these areas. We will continue to work with advocates, local leaders, and our partners to advance accessibility and equal opportunities for people with disabilities in all areas of life.

Learn more about the ADA here, or find answers to frequently asked questions here.
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