Americans Celebrate 15 Years Of ADA
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 26, 2005
UNITED STATES--Tuesday marked the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The sweeping anti-discrimination legislation, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, was designed to guarantee certain rights for people with disabilities, including equal access to public accommodations, services, and employment.
Things have improved as far as access to buildings, services and transportation. However, the percentage of Americans with disabilities who are unemployed or underemployed has not changed significantly since 1990.
As many expected when the ADA became law, it has been challenged repeatedly by business owners who claim that following the law is too costly, and by states that argue Congress overstepped its Constitutional authority by allowing individuals to sue them. Many such challenges have made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has tended to more narrowly define the scope of the law.
While there is much yet to overcome, citizens with disabilities in the United States -- along with other countries that have modeled their disability laws after the ADA -- have reason to celebrate.
"As we mark this significant anniversary, we celebrate improvements in access to polling places and the secret ballot, government services and programs, transportation, public places, communication and information technology," wrote Andy Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, in an ADA solidarity statement. "Our country is more accessible today thanks to the ADA, and all Americans are better off."
"Although substantial progress has been made, we are reminded every day of the significant remnants of the 'shameful wall of exclusion' that continue to prevent this great country from realizing the full promise of the ADA."
ADA Watch President Jim Ward said, "While this is a time to acknowledge the advances made by people with disabilities as a result of this historic civil rights law, it is essential that we examine what has not been accomplished, and what we are at risk of losing."
Ward cited an American Bar Association study last year that found employers won in more than 94 percent of 327 ADA employment cases decided in federal courts.
"The study concluded that the legal standards within the law were being interpreted by the courts in ways that 'still create obstacles for plaintiffs to overcome,'" Ward explained.
Disability rights groups have also expressed concern over President George W. Bush's nomination of John Roberts to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. While O'Connor tended to support many ADA cases, Roberts is remembered widely in the disability community for successfully arguing four years ago on behalf of Toyota Motor Company in a case filed by former Toyota employee Ella Williams.
"ADA Anniversary Statement of Solidarity" (National Council on Independent Living & American Association of People with Disabilities)
"A message from Yoshiko Dart and her family"
"President George H.W. Bush, Heads of Federal Agencies, U.S. Senator to Speak to ADA 15th Anniversary" (National Council on Disability)
"1990 Disabilities Act nudges change" (River Grove Messenger)
"Congresswoman Tubbs Jones Joins Nation in Celebration of the 15th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act" (Yahoo! Biz)
"Top Disability Employment Official Participates in 15th Anniversary Celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act" (U.S. Department of Labor)
"Consumers for Cable Choice Commemorates 15th Anniversary of the ADA" (Yahoo! Biz)
"New EEOC Publication Addresses Employment Rights Of People with Cancer under Disabilities Act" (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
"NCD and the Americans with Disabilities Act: 15 Years of Progress" (National Council on Disability)
"Fifteen Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Much Progress, but Much at Risk" (CivilRights.org)
"Disabled access better, still needs work" (Ottumwa Courier)
"Toyota v. Williams: What is a disability?" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)