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30 Years of the American Disabilities Act

by Berlin Schaubhut |

Thirty years ago today, the US government enacted the American Disabilities Act (ADA). This act led the way for accessible streets, buildings, transportation, equal employment for millions. Currently, 26% of the United States population lives with a disability; therefore, the act impacts the livelihood of more than 61 million Americans. 
Although there is still more work to be done, the ADA has been one of if not the most important and effective tools for ensuring equality for people with disabilities in the United States.
Because this act is so important, here's what you need to know about the ADA and how it impacts YOUR rights:

Before the ADA, Section 504 of 1973 was put into place, requiring any entity getting money from the federal government could not discriminate against anyone with disabilities.

After seventeen years of work and activism, the American Disabilities Act was put into place in 1990. The ADA is modeled after the civil rights act of 1964, limiting discrimination based on sex, race, or national origin. The ADA of 1990 limits discrimination on the bases of disability. To be covered by the ADA, you must have at least one current and documented impairment. 

The ADA breaks down into five titles:

Title I: Employment

This title aims protects individuals qualified for a job that might need some assistance due to an impairment. If you are a qualified employee or applicant with a disability, your employers must make reasonable accommodations. These can include:

  • Accessible application and hiring process
  • An accessible workplace environment
  • Alternative forms of communication and interpreters
  • Service animals
  • Job responsibilities adapted to your impairment
  • Technology, materials, resources, policies to fit your requirements

One important thing to know about Title I is that an employer is only allowed to ask about your ability to perform a job, not about your disability's specifics. Therefore you must provide this information yourself! And you must ask for your needed accommodation specifically. (dreamscape)

Title II: Public Accommodations and Transportation 

This required public entities, including state and local governments, to provide services, programs, activities accessible within reason to those with disabilities. This accessibility extends to any public transportation.  

 Title III: Businesses and Non-Profit Service Providers

Businesses that are open to the public cannot discriminate against disabilities. This includes requiring new altered commercial buildings to fit with ADA requirements. 

Title IV: Telecommunications

The Communications Act of 1934 requires companies to provide accommodations for individuals with disabilities. 

Title V: Miscellaneous 

The most important aspect of Title V is that it protects individuals that enforce their rights from retaliation.

The American Disability Rights Act of 1990 has protected and enabled millions of Americans in the past 30 years. However, there is so much more to work towards disability rights. Accessibility is a requirement under the ADA and Section 504 but there needs to be a universal value of accessibility and everyone in our community needs to fight for it. Learn about disability rights so that you can protect your own rights and also others!

Disability Rights Resources:



1. https://www.ada.gov/ada_intro.htm#:~:text=Modeled%20after%20the%20Civil%20Rights,law%20for%20people%20with%20disabilities.

2. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/infographic-disability-impacts-all.html#:~:text=61%20million%20adults%20in%20the,is%20highest%20in%20the%20South.

3. https://dreamscapefoundation.org/what-is-the-americans-with-disabilities-act/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5Y-Gxo7m6gIVz8DACh1IFgp9EAAYAyAAEgKk7_D_BwE