latest news Let's Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Written by
Marla Hollander, National Partnership Manager
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Few modern laws have had as great of an impact on American lives as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Join us in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ADA as we reflect on what the policy has – and has not – accomplished.

President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990. Few modern laws have had as big of an impact on Americans’ lives, and the anniversary of the ADA has led many to reflect on what the policy has — and has not — accomplished. People across the country celebrate this milestone anniversary while also reflecting and thinking about what still needs to be done to continue to ensure equitable access to resources, education, health care and transportation. The New York Times curated a series that explores how the ADA shaped modern life for people with disabilities in the 30 years since it was passed. 

Today, no child can legally be denied schooling because of a disability, workplaces and public spaces have been transformed and many nondisabled people have benefited as well. But it’s also clear that Americans with disabilities continue to endure inequities:

  • Only 19% of adults with disabilities held jobs last year, compared with 66% of those without disabilities.
  • Children with physical and intellectual disabilities have fewer options for extracurricular activities and job training.
  • People with disabilities are more likely to be incarcerated or to be victims of police violence, especially if they are not white.
  • Voter turnout is low, partly because of logistical difficulties. (“If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as otherwise-similar people without disabilities, there would be an additional 2.35 million voters,” a Rutgers University analysis concluded.)
  • Because the ADA didn’t require all old buildings to be retrofitted, many remain inaccessible.

As we celebrate the progress, we have made over the last 30 years, we should also remain focused on actualizing the change that needs to be made today. We can study the history of disability rights to learn about what has been done and remains to be done to make this country more equitable and accessible for all. The documentary, “Crip Camp,” tells the story of a group of youth with disabilities who met at a summer camp and became champions in the disability rights movement. The op-ed, “Black Disabled Lives Matter: We Can’t Erase Disability in #BLM,” explains why we need to say Black Disabled Lives Matter. Resources like these can help us learn about the achievements of the past and focus on addressing the needs of today. 

Special thanks to David Leonhardt of The Times for highlighting these resources and statistics.