Do you know how long it’s been since the United States barred discrimination on the basis of disability? 27 years.
That’s right — our laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability are only as old as a millennial.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was signed into law 27 years ago today, on July 26, 1990. As President George H. W. Bush remarked at the time, “This historic act is the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities — the first.”
The importance of the ADA cannot be overstated. As summarized by President Bush, the ADA finally protected the rights of persons with disabilities. And it was long overdue. Here’s the core of the law:
“This act is powerful in its simplicity. It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so long and so hard: independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream. Legally, it will provide our disabled community with a powerful expansion of protections and then basic civil rights. It will guarantee fair and just access to the fruits of American life which we all must be able to enjoy.”
Thanks to the ADA, individuals are legally protected from discrimination in employment, government services, and public accommodations like restaurants, hotels, movie theatres, and medical offices. The ADA promotes access and inclusion where no such guarantees existed before.
We’ve come a long way thanks to the ADA. And due to aging, illness, injury, or just the ways our bodies change, you’ll likely need the ADA at some point in your life. But how much do you know about the rights we now take for granted?
Take our short quiz below to learn what we’ve gained from the ADA!
Screen reader users: Navigate to a text-only version below the quiz field.
Answers appear after each question and its options.
The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 protected underrepresented groups from discrimination. Individuals with disabilities were protected under these laws.
B) False. While this landmark legislation outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, it did not protect individuals with disabilities.
Under the ADA, the definition of disability is:
A) A condition that a medical professional declares as a disability.
B) A significant physical limitation.
C) An impairment brought on by genetics, injury, or disease.
D) A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.
D) A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 broadened the definition of disability so that it would be interpreted as intended and not exclude persons with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act focuses on employment. What does this piece of the ADA accomplish?
A) Helps people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities.
B) Ensures that employers provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees.
C) Defines a reasonable accommodation as any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.
D) All of the above.
D) All of the above. The ADA is focused on equality of opportunity. This means that qualified persons with disabilities should be given an equal chance to get hired and do their job well, with accommodations, if necessary.
Title II of the ADA ensures that state and local governments:
A) Do not discriminate on the basis of disability.
B) Make their programs, services, and activities accessible to individuals with disabilities.
C) Hire people with disabilities.
D) Represent people with disabilities in their press and marketing materials.
E) Options A and B.
F) Options B and D.
E) Options A and B. State and local governments cannot discriminate in any way, including in their services.
The ADA addresses businesses that serve the public and sets standards for accessible buildings and services. Which of the following is NOT required by the ADA?
A) Newly constructed buildings must follow accessibility standards.
B) All buildings open to the public must be made accessible, no matter the cost to the business.
C) Businesses must make reasonable modifications to their services to accommodate persons with disabilities.
D) Businesses must take necessary steps to communicate well with customers, regardless of vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.
B) All buildings open to the public must be made accessible, no matter the cost to the business. If it would be especially difficult or expensive to make an existing building accessible, the business is not required to undertake those measures.
True or False: Persons with disabilities are still fighting for access and inclusion in employment, public services, health care, government, and more.
A) True. We still have a long way to go for equal access and inclusion for persons with disabilities. But thanks to the ADA and all who have fought for disability rights, we have a clearer path forward.