|President Bush's speech cards|
In the same way as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act gives protections to people who need special accommodations because of " "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." People are protected while they're at work, in public places, on public transportation, and when using telecommunications. It's the reason we have wheelchair ramps and captioned movies, TTY access and accessible public bathrooms.
In so many ways, the ADA has changed the way the United States operates - the way Americans interact with the world. Even people who do not currently have a disability see, on a daily basis, what is required for people who do to get around in the world.
I was born in 1986, and my hearing loss was actually diagnosed around the time the ADA was signed into law, give or take a few months. Around the time I was being fitted for my new hearing aids, hundreds of companies, city governments and corporations were taking steps to comply with the new law. And so I grew up in a world where most companies comply, where accessibility is basically a given. It may not be complete and total accessibility - anyone can attest to the fact that it's not always easy to navigate a ramp in a wheelchair or get around, or that captions are not always available - but it's a world where people can take steps to make sure they have the same advantages others do.
According to the National Association of the Deaf's Twitter, they're at the White House today to celebrate the anniversary with Marlee Matlin and President Obama. The president will be speaking at 5:30 today Eastern time and you can watch it here.
If you are interested in seeing the Justice Department's celebration of the anniversary on the 23rd, you can watch an open captioned video from this page after July 30.
Read the text of the act here.