July 26th marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. According to ada.gov, the act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.” The ADA was a huge step forward for people with diversabilities (diverse abilities) who experienced prejudice, segregation, and injustices across the country.
The History of Diversability Rights Leading to the ADA
The diversability community received a critical win in 1973 when Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act was enacted. This legislation banned discrimination based on disability for recipients of federal funds. It was the first time people with diversabilities received any kind of protective rights from the government, though it was a very small step towards actual inclusion and protection.
In the 1980s, the diversability community begin to band together and organize for their rights, setting the foundation for the ADA. During this time, they effectively prevented the Reagan administration from de-regulating Section 504, challenged Supreme Court decisions, and began working in leadership roles to help push diversability rights forward and begin drafting legislation.
The leaders of the diversability rights movement developed important relationships with people in Congress. Together with their representatives, they worked to draw up the first draft of the ADA. It was introduced to congress in 1988 by former Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut and former Representative Tony Coelho of California.
The original legislation went through multiple revisions and was repeatedly challenged. However, the diversability community stood together through all of it and continued to testify to the importance of having their rights as American citizens protected.
What the ADA Does for People with Diversabilities
The ADA does a number of crucial things for people with diversabilities:
- It ensures that any company with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions are not able to discriminate based on a disability. It also requires these companies to provide reasonable accommodations (you can learn more about reasonable accommodations here) to anyone with a diversability.
- It requires state and local governments to provide accessibility options for any programs, services, or activities that they offer.
- It requires private businesses from discriminating against people with diversabilities and sets standards for accessibility.
- It requires telecommunications companies to provide relay services for people with hearing or speech diversabilties so they are able to communicate.
Changes to the ADA Over the Years
Between 1990 and 2004, there were numerous Supreme Court cases that limited the ADA and changed the intent of the legislation. This resulted in diversability advocates pushing for a return to the original intent of the ADA.
In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act was passed and signed into law by President George W. Bush to provide broader protections and avoid narrow interpretation by the Supreme Court. While the regulations have been updated a few times since then, the ADA has largely been the same since 2008.
At Applied Development, we are dedicated to upholding the ADA and championing the rights of people with all types of diversabilities. If you have questions about following the ADA or staying in compliance, contact us today at 410.571.4016 or contact us on the website.