This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, the ADA prohibits the discrimination of people with …
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, the ADA prohibits the discrimination of people with disabilities at their job, in schools, in transportation and in all public and private spaces that are open to the general public.
The idea behind the law is a simple one - people with disabilities should have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. They deserve protections similar to those provided to Americans on the basis of race, sexual orientation, national origin, religion and age.
“The act does more than enlarge the independence of disabled Americans,” read a 1990 New York Times Editorial commemorating the ADA's signing. “It enlarges civil rights and humanity for all Americans.”
It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time not so long ago when the rights of those with disabilities were not enshrined into law. It was legal to discriminate against someone based on a disability. Restrooms, trains, banks and government buildings were not always accessible to someone with limited mobility. People who rely on service animals such as guide dogs could be denied entry into businesses.
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), making a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability” and expanding more on issues surrounding employment.
It's important to remember that the ADA benefits all Americans by its commitment to justice and equality under the law. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 61 million Americans - or one out of every four people - are living with some form of disability. The ADA makes explicit not only the rights of those Americans born with a disability, but also ensures protection to those who experience a temporary disability, illness, or are recovering from alcohol or drug addiction.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people with disabilities - many of whom already face an increased risk of social isolation. When they do interact in public, some pre-existing conditions may put them at a higher risk of infection.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of this landmark legislation, we should encourage our federal representatives to make sure any coronavirus relief package includes increased Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentages (FMAP) for Medicaid home- and community-based services. Furthermore, federal legislation for coronavirus relief should reject any proposals that allow businesses to implement non-ADA-compliant reopening plans.
Like any historic legislation in the United States, advocacy and vigilance keeps us moving forward.
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