The American with Disabilities Act is considered one of the most important laws of the 20th century. It is the foundation to ensure equal opportunity for all persons with disabilities in our government, public services, transportation, employment and communications. Under ADA, persons with disabilities are protected from discrimination on the basis of disability. This law has allowed individuals with disabilities to independently work, work, learn and enjoy the activities our community has to offer.
What is a Disability?
An individual is considered to have a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment. Persons discriminated against because they have a known association or relationship with an individual with a disability also are protected.
A Brief History
It all started with the Civil Rights of 1964 which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. However, it did not protect individuals with disabilities. This law is considered the beginning of the movement that would eventually lead to ADA.
Then the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 was enacted. It required that all government-constructed buildings should be accessible to persons with disabilities.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was a crucial starting point to include everyone with a disability. It noted that accessibility is vital for the inclusion and integration of people with disabilities into society. During this time, Congress created the Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the Access Board) to establish accssibilty design guidelines for facilities.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Ruling of 1979 dictated that all federally-funded transportation facilities should be accessible to all, regardless of disability.
Then in 1986, the National Council on Disability (NCD) issued a report (Toward Independence) recommending a comprehensive law requiring opportunity for all people with disabilities and created the first version of the ADA in 1988. The ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990 in the largest such signing ceremony in history.
Since 1990, there have been other amendments. In 2008, the law was enhanced to include the definition of a 'perceived' disability and further clarified the term 'major bodily function'. In 2010, other standards were adopted to include tickets for accessible seating, service animals, power mobility devices, use of video communications and others.