Celebrating the 29th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Disabilities Act

July 26, 2019 will commemorate the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed this monumental piece of civil rights legislation that prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities and special needs across all facets of life, including transportation, employment, education, and other places open to the general public. 

The ADA gave civil rights protections to people with disabilities similar to the protections provided to others on the basis of sex, color, race, national origin, religion, and age. The holistic purpose of the ADA was to ensure those with disabilities enjoyed the same opportunities and rights as everyone else. To commemorate the 29th anniversary of the ADA, let’s take a closer look at the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its five different titles.  

The Journey to Americans with Disabilities Act 

The origins of the ADA can be dated back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, which gave way to the Women’s Rights Movement and the Disability Rights Movements. However, the notion of the ADA truly gained momentum in 1986 when the National Council on the Handicapped (now the NCD or National Council on Disability) issued a comprehensive report called Toward Independence.

This report included a range of different legal recommendations that suggested an equal opportunity law was developed that could be titled “The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1986.” This proposed legislation greatly mirrored the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited discrimination on the basis of religion, color, race, national origin, or sex.  

In 1988, the newly-renamed National Council on Disability issued another report called On the Threshold of Independence. As a result, the Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities was created by Representative Owens and co-chaired by Elizabeth Boggs as well as Justin Dart Jr. At this time, the very first version of the ADA was introduced to the 100th Congress by Rep Coelho and Senator Weicker. 

A year later in 1989, the ADA was revised and introduced to the 101st Congress by Senators Durrenberger and Harken as well as Representatives Fish and Coelho. The American Disabilities Act pass the Senate by sweeping 76 to 8 vote — transforming the landscape and opportunities for millions of Americans living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The ADA was split into five different sections or titles.

Title I — Employment Section 

Title I promotes equal employment opportunities for those with disabilities. The employment title is uniquely designed to ensure those with special needs and disabilities have access to the same employment benefits and opportunities offered to those who do not have disabilities. Under this Title, employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees or applicants. 

A common example of reasonable accommodations can include modifying training materials or exams. For instance, an employer could allow a test to be taken orally or allow a person with intellectual/developmental disabilities to have more time to complete an exam. Another example of reasonable accommodations for employment would be offering offering temporary workplace specialists to assist with training or installing computer screen magnifiers to help those who are visually impaired. 

Title II — State & Local Government Section 

Title II promotes nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in all local and state government services. Title II also provides detailed standards for the functioning of public transit systems (including intercity rail systems and commuter rail systems) —whether they receive federal funds or not. Title II is enforced by the United States Department of Justice. 

Title III — Public Accommodations Section

Under Title III, discrimination on the basis of disability isn’t allowed in commercial facilities or public accommodations. Public accommodations are private entities that operate, own or lease places of public accommodations, such as restaurants, bars, shops, stores, theaters, recreation facilities, schools, private museums etc. One very common example public accommodations is when large retailers offer electronic wheelchair assistance for shoppers who may have mobility disabilities. 

A potential example of discrimination under Title III would be requiring the presenation of a driver’s license to pay for goods or services by check. This would be discrimination if a person with disabilities wasn’t eligible for a driver’s license and the use of an alternative ID was an option. The Title II mandates businesses make “reasonable modifications” to standard processes when serving those with disabilities. 

 Title IV —Telecommunications Section

The Telecommunications Title requires Internet providers and telephone companies to offer a national system of intrastate and interstate telecommunications relay services. These services should allow access and usability to those who have speech and hearing disabilities via the phone. In addition, Title IV requires closed captioning of federally-funded public service announcements. Title IV is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission. 

Title V — Miscellaneous Provisions Section

The final Title includes a range of different provisions that are related to the holistic ADA. This Title covers issues, such as:

  • How the ADA relates to other laws;
  • The impact of the ADA on insurance benefits and providers;
  • State immunity;
  • Prohibition against coercion and retaliation
  • Attorney’s fees

In addition, Title V Miscellaneous Provisions provides a list of different conditions that are not covered to be disabilities. 

While the ADA isn’t air tight and all encompassing, it has created more inclusive opportunities for people with all types of disabilities. As the most far-reaching piece of accessibility legislation in the United States, the ADA fails to explicitly address web accessibility. Because of this, it’s been primarily up to judges and lawyers to determine how the law applies to content online. 

Contact CMA to Learn More about Inclusion

At Community Mainstreaming Associates, we’re proud to celebrate 29 years of advancement for all people with IDD. While the ADA has helped to reduce discrimination, we have a lot of work to do to create full community inclusion. We’re also proud to be on the forefront working as advocates for people with IDD and continually working toward greater inclusion throughout all facets of life. 

Contact CMA today to learn more about how we help.