On July 26, 2012, the United States will mark the 22nd anniversary of key landmark legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as ADA (Public Law, 101-336). Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, this historic legislation resulted from intense advocacy from the disability rights community and the bipartisan effort of senators and representatives. CEC played a key role in its passage.
The intent of ADA was to provide individuals with disabilities protection from exclusion and discrimination that resulted from their disability. According to the www.ada.gov guide on disability laws, “ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, a person who has a history or record of such impairment or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment…”
After being signed into law, ADA implementation faced an uphill battle and was challenged in the federal courts. The resulting litigation lead to multiple lower courts and two Supreme Court rulings that narrowed and weakened the protections that Congress had intended to provide to individuals with disabilities. Again, advocacy within the disabilities rights community and the bipartisan support of senators and representatives worked toward solutions and ADA was amended to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, also known as ADAAA (Public Law 110-325). Signed into law by President George W. Bush 18 years after ADA had been originally enacted, ADAAA provided a clearer framework for employees, employers and the courts to follow to ensure Americans with disabilities were receiving the protections intended by the original law.
Protection against discrimination is a basic human right. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities looks to the global community to ensure that all individuals with disabilities are afforded equal protections granted to non-disabled persons in their respective countries and for those individuals from the United States traveling abroad. With the United States looking to ratify this UN Treaty, some of the lessons learned in the United States since ADA was originally signed into law 22 years ago may assist other countries as they move toward more equal protection, access and non-discriminatory practices to ensure their most vulnerable populations experience equity and dignity in their daily lives.
Please tune in as the White House observes the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and hosts a discussion on the state of disability policy tomorrow at 8 a.m. EST. You can view the live stream by clicking here.
To read U.S. Secretary of Education's remarks on the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, please click here.
Send a letter to your Senator and urge them to ratify the UN CRPD today.