As Americans, we only need to reflect on the Willowbrook scandal to realize that the rights of people with disabilities were severely unfair. The blatant segregation of these individuals, and hindering them from integrating into society, continues to shame us.
During the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement there was legislation passed to insure the rights of minorities, however, the original legislation did not protect the rights of another minority, people with disabilities. The era also gave us the Women’s Rights Movement and the Disability Rights Movement, a force which grew and united for a change in the way the population with disabilities were discriminated against in employment, housing, schools and basic human rights.
25 years ago, on July 26, 1990, President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) after many years of hard work on the part of committed individuals seeking an end to discrimination of people with disabilities and allowing them the freedoms we all deserve.
A revolutionary piece of legislation, the ADA “…requires removal of barriers that deny individuals with disabilities equal opportunity and access to jobs, public accommodations, government services, public transportation, and telecommunications.”
Since its inception, the ADA has weathered controversy and confusion of definitions while attempting to enforce compliance with each segment of the law, but the vast number of court cases filed under the ADA prove its usefulness and each case further defines its protections.
According to the ADA Network:
In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 56.7 million people in the United States have one or more disabilities, an increase of 2.2 million since 2005. That’s 19%, or one in every five people living in this country.
Americans have become familiar with the needs of people with disabilities since the ADA passed 25 years ago. Through the years, with education and awareness, we have a better understanding of the economic, business, and civil rights issues surrounding them.
Through the establishment of networks and organizations, a coordination of those with disabilities with businesses and services has increased the options available to each. The civil liberties provided by the ADA equip them to contribute to the economy, interact socially and share in the well-being of their communities.
Although the passage of the ADA 25 years ago brought forth improvements to the lives of those living with disabilities, there is still work to do. We now have the laws in place to insure certain rights, but educating the public and changing attitudes remains an unseen barrier to equality.
The ADA law is complicated, no doubt, and far from perfect, but 25 years after its enactment we must celebrate its benefits and the progress made through it. Acceptance and compliance is happening, and along with that will come confidence for the millions of Americans with disabilities.
Our mission at Opengate is to aid in the development of adults with disabilities of all kinds whether physical, mental or behaviorally challenged, helping them to become valued and prized members of society through our programs and services. We celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA along with all those we serve.
Opengate is a leader in its field and is recognized by New York State as one of only seven like agencies among thousands that have earned a prestigious COMPASS designation.