Celebrating the notion that all of our citizens can contribute to society if we provide them with the tools and opportunities
Last summer, amidst the COVID pandemic, groundbreaking civil rights law quietly turned 30. Due to 2020’s health concerns most public gatherings and celebrations were put on hold, and LIFE at RCIL (Living Independently is for Everyone at RCIL) was unable to publicly commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). LIFE at RCIL celebrates the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act every year because, as former Arizona Senator John Kyl once said, it is “a celebration of the uniquely American notion that all of our citizens can contribute to society if we provide them with the tools and opportunities they need.”
On July 26th, 1990, the ADA was signed into law. It prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life; requiring employers, as well as public entities, including schools, restaurants, public transportation, health care and communication providers to offer full access to the services and programs enjoyed by most Americans.
But after 30 years, is the ADA still relevant and effective? Can communities continue to move forward based on the protections contained in the ADA? In short, how are we doing?
Those questions are not always easy to answer. There are no mandatory reporting requirements surrounding the ADA as there are in other civil rights laws because the ADA is a “voluntary compliance law”; the expectation being that all affected will support the law. However, this has not always been the case. There are revolutionary changes in the way that people with disabilities were recognized in the ADA’s groundbreaking legislation that shook up a society who all too often failed to acknowledge the existence of over 13% of the U.S. population.
Over the ADA’s 30-year history people with disabilities have continued to be marginalized and faced resistance when they have attempted to move forward. In 1999, the Supreme Court narrowed the ADA’s definition of what “disability” is and who could benefit under the statute, essentially restricting access to a law that promised to eliminate discrimination. In 2008, Congress passed new legislation that refined that decision and determined that the ADA was intended to be an inclusive document that opened society’s doors.
But despite the push and pull between those who think that the ADA did not go far enough, and those who think the ADA went too far, people with disabilities are continuing to press on, continuing to successfully utilize this 30-year-old legislation, living full active lives within their communities and the wider world.
Ultimately, the ADA has been both the foundation and the doorway that has enabled many Americans to access significant opportunities. The access requirements outlined in the ADA have changed how people with disabilities vote, travel, obtain education, communicate, work, and socialize. But the issues still facing people with disabilities cannot all be legislated away or solved by installing a ramp. Some lingering societal biases may take longer to eradicate.
There is an entire generation of optimistic young Americans with disabilities who have come to believe in equal opportunity due to the sweeping reforms contained within the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even as we continue to encourage proactive changes in our society, the ADA remains an effective means for all of us to help change American life for the better.
LIFE at RCIL Advocates want to ensure that your rights to live independently and have equal access and opportunities to participate in our communities are respected. Employment Specialists are available to assist individuals with disabilities who are looking for employment. Employers who are interested in hiring individuals with disabilities are also encouraged to give us a call. Contact LIFE at RCIL at 315-797-4642 or toll-free at 1-800-627-2981. www.rcil.com