ADA marks 23rd anniversary

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's hard to believe that something we take for granted, the Americans With Disabilities Act, is only 23 years old as of Friday, July 26, 2013.

We've gotten so used to talk of new buildings meeting "ADA requirements" that we forget the federal law was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on this day in 1990.

It was far from a sure thing -- a "Capitol Crawl" shortly before it was finally passed had activists with physical disabilities gathering in front of the Capitol Building, shedding their crutches, wheelchairs and any other assistive devices, and pulling and crawling their bodies up all 100 of the Capitol's front steps. Chanting "ADA Now!" and "Vote! Now!" they were known to have "inconvenienced" several Senators enough to have persuaded them to approve the act.

The ADA prevents discrimination in employment, access to public facilities, transportation and commercial facilities and telecommunications (such as closed-captioning).

The act has been controversial, of course, with critics saying it actually decreases the employment rate for disabled persons, raises the cost of doing business for employers and may actually be ineffectual, according to some researchers.

In fact, the second President Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 which modified court rulings that Congress decided were too restrictive, but provided broader protections for disabled workers.

Let's hope the pendulum comes to rest in the center, providing reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities without forcing taxpayers and private businesses to fund extravagant and needless modifications.

America can't afford to hinder citizens of all abilities from contributing their best to our society.

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