The ADA and Why It Is Still Important

Honoring Those Who Fought for Disability Rights Thirty-Three Years Later

Wednesday, July 26, 2023


Rosie Correll

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a set of laws and regulations put into place by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. The ADA prohibits discrimination against those with physical and mental disabilities in society, in the workplace, and for government and state services. Under the ADA, there are five titles that detail the regulations for businesses and organizations to follow. Title I helps people with disabilities gain and keep equal employment opportunities. This title requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants who qualify for them. Under Title II, local and state government public entities are required to make their programs, services, and activities accessible to those with disabilities. These entities include public libraries, city police departments, public schools, county social services, and state vocational rehabilitation agencies. This is the title that requires buildings be accessible and have all information available to those with hearing, visual, and speech impairments. Title III is similar to Title II except it applies to publicly and privately owned entities. Transportation, both public and private, is covered by Titles II and III. 

Titles IV and V require internet and telephone companies to provide services that allow individuals with hearing and speech disabilities the ability to communicate over the phone. They also cover the ADA’s relationship to other state laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs, and attorney’s fees. 

Prior to the ADA being written into law, disability rights protests happened all over the county. One of the most notable ones was named The Capitol Crawl. On March 12, 1990, more than 1,000 people with disabilities stood outside of the Capitol building when the ADA was stalled in the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation. During the protest, more than 60 people threw down their mobility aids and crawled up the 83 steps of the building. Just three months after the Capitol Crawl, President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. 

While the ADA has allowed people with disabilities easier access to state and local government services, transportation, and public accommodations, there are still areas that need improvement. In an article published in Time Magazine in 2020, Abigail Abrams writes that the majority of disabled Americans continue to struggle to find employment and affordable housing. “Disabled people are still roughly twice as likely as nondisabled Americans to be unemployed and to live in poverty, and these numbers have persisted over time,” writes Abrams. 

The COVID-19 pandemic started shifting the conversation around providing alternative ways of working that make it easier for people with health and medical issues. For example, the pandemic introduced remote working where people can work from home and use technology to communicate with employers. This mode of working benefits those who may not be able to leave their home due to their disability, those without means of transportation, or the inability to find childcare. The pandemic made accommodations more commonplace for people because of the lingering effects COVID had on some people who were infected. The long-term symptoms of COVID have opened the eyes of some employers and helped them understand the severity of continuous health conditions. 

It is important to note that while the pandemic is beginning to improve the willingness of employers to implement accommodations for those who require it, disabled people still face implicit bias and discrimination every day. Decades since the ADA was established, disability-related complaints are still the largest category filed with the fair housing and employment federal agencies and many public buildings, businesses, and institutions still remain inaccessible, according to the Time Magazine article. Although the ADA has significantly helped guarantee disabled Americans the rights to a more inclusive life, the historical biases that have pushed them to become a marginalized community are still a major roadblock to total and complete equality. 

As a Carsey author, Rosie Corell provides detailed articles diving into the lives of Carsey students and current events in the policy world. For example, Rosie reported on Caitlyn Fulton, a Master in Community Development student at Carsey. Caitlyn and Rosie share a similar passion for disability justice and eliminating the stigma surrounding it. You can watch and read Caitlyn’s story, written by Rosie, here.