The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) is proud to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA, passed and signed into law on July 26, 1990, was our nation’s seminal law that finally said that people with disabilities are equal citizens of our country and therefore deserving of legal protections.
The ADA remains the backbone for much-needed societal and attitudinal change toward people with disabilities. President George H.W. Bush, who signed the bill into law, praised the Act as “the world’s first comprehensive declaration of the equality for people with disabilities, and marked it another Independence Day – one that is long overdue.” The ADA has guaranteed access to public venues, employment opportunities, housing options, more accessible roads, curb cuts and transportation. The ADA has redefined the importance of community and living where we choose in order to live our best life.
Sadly, each year we continue to see threats made to the ADA through congressional legislation, and lack of understanding by others who do not know that the ADA means that people are entitled to services and supports to help them navigate and fully access their community. The ADA helped us to think more about universal design – a term that means that when we design sidewalks, buildings, homes, and other parts of our community to be accessible for those with disabilities, we are creating the best communities for all. The “curb-cut effect” means that not only do curb-cuts help those who use wheelchairs, but also parents with baby strollers, people with skateboards, delivery personnel with dollies, and elderly people with canes or walkers. In other words, we all benefit from such universal design and consideration of those with disabilities.
But the ADA is about more than just accessibility to physical spaces. It is about equal opportunities for meaningful employment, the right to participate equally in civic responsibilities such as voting for our elected officials, and the right to live where we choose and with whom we choose. Over the last few years, we have experienced significant threats to many of these rights codified in law 31 years ago. The right to vote is under threat in the United States – especially for people with disabilities. NACDD’s web-based voting resource www.onevotenow.org serves as a resource to help people with disabilities know their rights, important information about how to register to vote and important deadlines in their state or territory. OVN is here to help make sure that everyone can exercise their right to vote and that all elections are accessible.
Additionally, the ADA reminds us that we have the right to be healthy and live safely. This includes the right to a COVID-19 vaccine administered in a culturally competent and accessible setting. NACDD’s webpage www.getoutthevaccine.org includes resources and information to help people with disabilities get the vaccine wherever they are and NACDD is proud to partner with its 56 State and Territorial DD Councils to ensure that all who want the vaccine are able to get it.
“On this 31st Anniversary, I am reminded that these rights have not been with us all that long,” said Donna Meltzer, CEO of NACDD, “we have seen many rights eroded over the years and threats to voting and access to important community services and health care are constantly under attack. On this 31st anniversary let us reflect on this short history of the ADA and re-dedicate ourselves to protecting the ADA and civil rights for all.”