Celebrating 30 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Beyond

woman using a wheelchair smiling while headed down a sidewalkAs we head into the ADA’s 30th anniversary, I would like to reflect on how we ensure we continue on the right path forward for people with disabilities. On July 26th, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law the equality of opportunity and full participation in society for disabled individuals; this went a long way in furthering the rights of this marginalized group, including access to buildings, education, employment, and government services. This law changed disability rights immensely, as now there was legal backing for so many who faced discrimination.

But the ADA did not cover everything, and the law did not eradicate microaggressions, prejudice, and violence against people with disabilities. There is still discrimination in hiring and receiving accommodations at work, and only 19% of disabled people are employed, compared to 66% of nondisabled people. People with disabilities are twice as likely to experience violence. Establishments often look for loopholes in the ADA to exclude disabled people from their business. And it wasn’t until the Affordable Care Act that insurers could not deny a person with a disability from signing up for healthcare.

There is hope that these injustices will become a memory as disabled people advocate for their rights and come together to enact change, as they always do. It was because of this activism that we have the Americans with Disabilities Act to begin with, and why we have the Affordable Care Act. It’s why we have the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which broadened the definition of disability in the context of the law to make sure more folks were protected under it. Advocates like Anita Cameron, Haben Girma, Dominick Evans, Alice Wong, and others bring activism to the forefront for a new generation online.

As leaders, both disabled and not, I passionately believe it is our duty to stand with those who stand for justice, and to lend our voice and platform for the betterment of all disabled people. Celebrating the ADA includes recognizing the work that went into the law and how many human rights groups came together to get it passed; we see human rights groups come together now in the fight for social justice. Celebrating is more than recognizing a victory – it’s about looking ahead to the next hurdle, and ensuring we go over it united.

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