ADA Celebrates 30 Years: A Reflection on Milestones & Progress

The Americans With Disabilities Act

The year 2020 is one for the history books. Not only does it mark the beginning of a new decade, but it also signifies the 30th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For three decades, this act has improved the lives of those with disabilities, ensuring they receive the same opportunities as those without disabilities.

As it stands, the ADA may be one of the most important ADA laws to be passed to date. Keep reading to learn the history of the act, as well as milestones, progress, and what can be expected in the future.

What Is the ADA?

According to the CDC, one in four adults, which is around 61 million Americans, has a disability that impacts major life activities. The most common disability impacts mobility. With so many people suffering from a disability, it’s important that they have the proper protections.

The ADA is a civil rights law that was passed in 1990 in order to prohibit discrimination against persons that suffer from disabilities. The act ensures equal opportunities in everyday life, as well as in employment, telecommunications, and state/local government services.

The act is divided into five sections.

Title I

Title I deals with equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The title exists in order to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to employment opportunities and benefits as those without disabilities. This title requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and qualified applicants.

Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the regulations in Title I.

Title II

Title II covers nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in local and state government services, which covers activities, programs, and services offered by public entities. The title outlines the processes that must be followed in order to make reasonable modifications to practices, policies, and procedures to avoid discrimination.

Title II covers many topics, including architectural barriers, public transportation, and the need for effective communication for those with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.

One of the biggest rules set by Title II of the ADA is the physical access requirements that apply to all public buildings. This portion of the act established the need for ADA tactile warning surfaces, which greatly benefits those with visual disabilities. These surfaces must be placed in doorways and areas where pedestrians may encounter traffic.

Title III

Title III covers nondiscrimination by public accommodations as well as in commercial facilities. This title prohibits private areas of public accommodation from discriminating against those with disabilities. Common examples include:

  • Hotels
  • Retail merchants
  • Restaurants
  • Golf courses
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Health clubs
  • Movie theaters

Title III also sets the minimum standards for accessibility in newly constructed buildings. The title also requires the removal of barriers in existing buildings that may interfere with mobility. Last, the title sets the legal requirement for effectively communicating with people who have vision, hearing, or speech disabilities.

Title IV

Title IV is all about effective telecommunications. This part of the ADA requires telephone and internet companies to provide a nationwide system that provides inter- and intrastate telecommunications relay services. These services are used by individuals who have speech or hearing disabilities, to allow effective communication over the phone.

Title IV also requires the closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.

Title V

Title V includes a variety of miscellaneous provisions, including state immunity, the ADA’s relationship to other laws, and its impact on insurance providers, attorney fees, and much more.

ADA Milestones

There are many notable ADA milestones and disability-related government regulations that are worth highlighting. One of the most important is the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) in 2008. This law made significant changes to what is defined as a disability.

With the passing of the ADAAA, coverage and protection for those with disabilities were expanded. The act lists bodily functions that should be taken into account when determining if an individual has an impairment of any major life activity. The ADAAA also sets the precedence that those with temporary disabilities may assert coverage if the disability is severe enough.

While the act hasn’t had many notable changes in the recent future, there are some rulings and decisions that are worth mentioning. One of the most recent ADA milestones occurred in 2015 in the case Young v. UPS. In this ruling, the Supreme Court recognized that the ADA provides important protections for employees with pregnancy-related conditions.

ADA Benefits

There are endless benefits that the ADA has provided to those with disabilities. As a provider of detectable warning surfaces, we will focus on the environmental regulations that have had a huge impact on the mobility and safety of disabled people.

Under ADA requirements, accommodations include public rights-of-way, ease of access, and curb ramps at pedestrian crossings. Under the law, detectable warnings are required on transit platform edges, curb ramps, and vehicular ways. Detectable warning surfaces are especially helpful for those with visual impairments, as the surface serves as a warning that can be felt versus seen.

Curb ramps are also required under the ADA. Curb ramps provide safe access to streets and sidewalks for people who wear walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters. Traditional-edged curbs are a safety hazard for those with mobility issues. Without curb ramps, someone who uses a wheelchair or walker would be at a much higher risk of traversing a public street.
By making routes more accessible and safe, ADA regulations minimize the risks that those with disabilities face in everyday life.

Aside from safety benefits for those with disabilities, the ADA is an act that truly benefits everyone. Bicyclists, travelers with rolling suitcases, parents pushing strollers, and shoppers with carts full of items all benefit from using wheelchair access ramps.

The Future of ADA

While the ADA has touched the lives of millions of people, there is still plenty of work to be done in order to ensure that the full spirit of the law comes to fruition. Despite the many changes that have been made, there are still many hurdles that those with disabilities face.

For example, there are around 11 million people of differing abilities who want and are able to work, but only around 29% of them are employed, compared to 75% of the typically abled population. There are still accessibility challenges, despite the regulations set forth by the ADA.

Aside from physical accessibility, there’s an entirely new realm of accessibility: the internet. With the ever-growing use of the internet and connected devices, there’s a growing push for accessibility for those with visual impairments. Many rules regarding digital accessibility can be found in Section 508.

While there is still much to be done, the ADA is a legal ruling that improves the daily life of millions of people who have a disability. At ADA Solutions, we continue to provide detectable warning surfaces that improve safety and accessibility throughout North America. Our team is also committed to developing innovative solutions, including our photoluminescent systems and way-finding surfaces.

Learn more about our ADA products by calling the experts at (800) 372-0519.