The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it heralded sweeping regulations supporting the rights of people with disabilities. Although this law greatly expands the rights of individuals with disabilities in the United States and prohibits discrimination, it also benefits those of us who may not be considered to have a disability.
ALSO has a 25 year-plus history of providing support services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Below we will explain the importance of ADA compliance for people with disabilities, what being ADA compliant looks like, and the difference between being ADA compliant and being fully inclusive and accessible. We also share how ADA requirements have moved beyond and made a positive impact on the daily lives of the general public.
ADA compliance standards protect people with disabilities from discrimination in major areas of daily life, including employment opportunities, the purchase of goods and services, and participation in federal, state, and local government programs.
When organizations are ADA compliant, it means that they are doing everything they can to ensure equal access at the same level as the general public. The law falls under the U.S. Department of Justice and is divided into five sections, called ‘Titles.’
Title i: Employment.
Title ii: Public entities
Title iii: Businesses that are open to the public.
Title iv: Telecommunications.
Title v: Other requirements (aka, Miscellaneous Provisions).
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of the above sections so that we can learn more about how ADA compliance positively affects daily life.
A key concept, particularly in cases of employment, is reasonable accommodations. This is defined as changes to any or all of the following that allow a qualified individual equal opportunity for success:
A wide variety of reasonable accommodations have been a true game-changer in helping individuals to achieve competitive employment. Just a few examples are screen readers, testing materials in alternative formats, wheelchair ramps, and alternative computer keyboards.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Employment Services Throughout Oregon.
This includes services, programs, and activities provided by federal, state and local governments. Therefore, public education institutions, healthcare, emergency services, must all provide reasonable accommodations so that people with disabilities can benefit from these services. The law also applies to the exercising of voting rights. Under Title ii, ADA regulations also cover public transportation services.
When we stop to think about all of the services provided by public entities, we begin to realize the extensive barriers that our fellow citizens living with disabilities had to endure prior to the ADA and other anti-discrimination laws. Imagine not being able to get help from emergency services due to a hearing or communication impairment. Or what about being left out of a field trip to the public library with your school group because it lacks a wheelchair ramp?
Such businesses include non-profits and are also called public accommodations. Just a few examples are restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, and daycare centers. ADA regulations make extensive efforts to strike a balance between providing accommodations and causing undue hardship for the particular business. The financial resources and size of the business is often a consideration.
Commercial facilities (warehouses, office complexes) must follow ADA standards of accessible design. This is a complex set of requirements that allows maximum mobility, safety, and independence. Some examples of accessible design include:
LEARNING MORE: About what is considered an ‘undue hardship.’
A company website is considered a public accommodation under ADA Title iii. Although there are no clear regulations regarding web accessibility, the Department of Justice has levied penalties due to ADA compliance issues.
More important, however, is that business owners acknowledge that consumers with disabilities are potential customers for their products and services. In fact, it has been confirmed that they represent a huge part of the market share, so inclusivity in web design offers huge financial advantages!
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
This section of the ADA refers to requirements that phone companies must follow to ensure that people who have hearing and/or speech disabilities are able to communicate with others.
A number of other requirements serve to ensure appropriate implementation of the ADA, including:
To gain a clear picture of why the Americans with Disabilities Act is so important, we look to the section of the law called, “Findings and Purpose.” The drafting of the law began in 1988 with the writing of Discrimination Diaries. These documented daily instances of discrimination and inaccessibility against people with disabilities.
Congress found that individuals with disabilities were enduring multiple instances of discrimination. Here are some of the findings in detail:
From these extensive findings, Congress determined the Purpose of the Act:
Sound comprehensive? Well, that’s exactly what this law was meant to be! The compliance requirements facilitate solid and enforceable procedures that break down barriers to full inclusion.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Read the full Americans with Disabilities Act and related amendments.
At ALSO, we know that the true spirit of the ADA isn’t just a set of procedures and rules, but a road map on how individuals with disabilities should be included in all aspects of everyday life. It’s up to us as teachers, business owners, human service providers, and community members to take further steps. This ideal is essential to equal opportunity for all.
We believe that the major focus of progressing to full inclusivity and accessibility should be based on changing community attitudes. In order to truly understand and make changes, we must take the time to learn. The University of South Wales (UNSW) has published an excellent set of guidelines on helping us to embrace community inclusion of people with disabilities:
LEARNING MORE: About changing community attitudes regarding full inclusivity and accessibility.
You know you’ve got a great law when virtually everyone benefits. The Americans with Disabilities Act has been coined by some as, “A Law for Every American.” Since 1990, ADA compliance regulations have progressively expanded to the general public in several ways.
Even those of us who have pushed strollers or carried suitcases have benefitted from ADA regulations that require ramps and elevators for people using wheelchairs, walkers, or canes.
ALSO (Advocates for Life Skills and Opportunity) wouldn’t be in the field providing services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities without a true commitment to advocacy, ADA compliance, and equal opportunity. Advocacy for ADA compliance helps us to realize the vision of full community inclusion for everyone.
Jackie B., one of the ALSO Supported Living Managers, says it all:
“I will live our values in my work by always being someone that the people we support and my coworkers can trust. I value teamwork and promise to be a player and a coach. I will look for innovative ways to problem-solve and to enrich others. I will support the individuals we work for with dignity and carry that dignity to our team.”
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