Monday, July 26, 2010

The Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

President Bush's speech cards
Today is the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law on this day in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.

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.


  1. yeah. I've always felt that they always accomodate walking people by investing their money to provide stairs but not ramps for people who use wheelchairs. same with hearing. They invest speakers, sound effects, background musics (even pay to use copyrighted musics, I THINK) ,improved technologies for sounds, etc. for hearing people but won't spend a dime on captioning for hearing people. It can be very oppressive.

  2. The ADA Laws are a joke!!
    For years, the Deaf had to wait for close captioned television. Then, when it was supposed to be available, everything started going wrong and nobody knew what to do about it...Nobody seemed to care!
    Now, they're adding RealTime captioning to movies that were, formerly, captioned in advance, making it impossible for someone, who has tinnitis to enjoy the movie.
    But, we're told, "Well, they tried," as if nothing else can be done.
    I'll tell you, I think the ADA Laws were a salve for the idiots, in Congress to be able to sooth their consciences and say they'd done "everything" they could to help.
    In reality, they haven't done a thing!!


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