When President Bush signed the Act, he stated, “Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation's Independence Day. Today we're here to rejoice in and celebrate another “independence day,'' one that is long overdue. With today's signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.”
The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with mental and/or physical impairments in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life to ensure that every individual with a disability has equal rights.
- Title I Equal Employment Opportunity for individuals with disabilities
- Title II Nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in State and Local Government Services
- Title III Nondiscrimination on the basis of disability by Public Accommodations
- and in Commercial Facilities
- Title IV Telecommunications
- Title V Miscellaneous Provisions
Sadly, prior to the ADA becoming law, there was opposition from many members of the business and religious community. In general, these groups were concerned about federal intrusion and the expense involved in becoming compliant.
President Bush had this to say regarding the concern over cost:
“I know there may have been concerns that the ADA may be too vague or too costly, or may lead endlessly to litigation. But I want to reassure you right now that my administration and the United States Congress have carefully crafted this Act. We've all been determined to ensure that it gives flexibility, particularly in terms of the timetable of implementation; and we've been committed to containing the costs that may be incurred.... Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”
More than 3,000 people gathered on the South lawn of the White House to witness the signing of the ADA—the largest audience ever to witness a bill become law in US history. President Bush considered the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 among the finest achievements of his administration, calling it the greatest piece of civil rights legislation in years.
On Monday, June 20th President Obama spoke about the impact of the ADA and the progress that has been made to protect the rights of those with disabilities, but reminded Americans that more work needs to be done. He said, “We all know too many people with disabilities are still unemployed—even though they can work, even though they want to work, even though they have so much to contribute.”
As champions for improving the quality of life for adults, children, and families impacted by disabilities and special needs, Independent Disability Services certainly understands the significance of the ADA.
In IDS’ Independent Living Program, Direct Support Professionals provide one-on-one assistance to 40 adults with developmental disabilities in their own homes. Services are tailored to the individual’s unique situation and teach life skills that may include menu planning, self-advocacy, safety skills, home organization, and other essentials needed to live as independently as possible.
Ultimately, the goal of the program is to help individuals with developmental disabilities achieve their goals, maintain independence, and enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else in the community.
President Obama stated that equal access—to the classroom, the workplace, and the transportation required to get there. Equal opportunity—to live full and independent lives the way we choose. Not dependence—but independence. That’s what the ADA was all about.
However, there are no government agencies responsible for inspecting businesses to verify ADA compliance. However, the government does take action if a formal complaint has been filed.
If you, or someone you know, have been discriminated against, the following resources may be helpful.
- Get answers to questions about the ADA by calling the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TTY: 800-514-0383).
- File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development if you feel you are the victim of housing discrimination.
- Find out how to file a charge of employment discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Visit Disability.gov for many resources about the ADA