To commemorate today’s 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island presided over the House. This was noteworthy because Langevin was the first quadriplegic elected to the House … and this was the first time that he had access to presiding from the rostrum, a chore that’s routine for other House members. Recent renovations that installed hydraulic lifts allowed him access to the speaker’s podium in his motorized wheelchair.
Langevin is one of many. More than one in five Americans are disabled and more than three million Americans over the age of 15 use wheelchairs. Gary Talbot is one of that number and he tells his story a spinal cord injury and the discrimination he faced. He finally had a chance to make a difference when he became assistant general manager for systemwide accessibility for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. His story clearly illustrates the difference that the ADA has made.
But despite the many gains since the landmark legislation was passed, debate about the ADA still rages. Many wonder: Could Bush’s Americans With Disabilities Act pass today?
“The ADA was the first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities–ever, in the world–and many nations soon followed President Bush’s lead and enacted similar legislation. The curb cuts, automatic doors, braille signs, “kneeling” buses and handicapped parking spaces that we take for granted now were not a part of American life before then. In fact, there’s a whole generation of teenagers, born in the years since that summer day in 1990, who have no idea what it used to be like. Millions of people joined the mainstream of American life that morning, and not long after many were able to attend public schools for the first time, get jobs for the first time, even just go to movie theaters for the first time. Think of all the people you know whose lives would be very different today had that bill not become law 20 years ago.”
ADA home page from the U.S. Department of Justice
ADA Resources for Employers from the U.S. Depatment of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy
ADA Guide for Small Businesses
ADA Toolkit for Employers – This resource from the ADA National Network offers various Events & Educational Materials, including FAQs on the ADA, to help employers learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and disability-related topics.
Regional ADA National Network Center Websites
The ADA video gallery features several short films, including:
10 Employment Myths – Many employers misunderstand the Americans with Disabilities Act and are reluctant to hire people with disabilities because of unfounded myths. This seventeen-minute video responds to concerns expressed by employers, explaining the ADA in common sense terms and dispelling myths about this often overlooked pool of well-qualified employees.
Ten Small Business Mistakes – This video identifies common mistakes that small businesses make when trying to comply with the ADA and addresses the importance and value of doing business with 50 million people with disabilities. The video features statements by store owners expressing their doubts or misunderstandings about the ADA followed by responses from the Assistant Attorney for Civil Rights and other Department of Justice employees explaining the law in common sense terms.