The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law more than 20 years ago. George H.W. Bush signed the bill in July of 1990. Do you think the ADA is a good law for those of us with disabilities? If yes, why? If no, why not?
The ADA was written when disabilities rights groups shared drafts and edits for more than 20 years. After living with the law for awhile, it was clear amendments were needed, so it has been a living law with clarifications added.
The ADA began as a way to add "disabilities" to the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination. It was supposed to increase employment opportunities and allow people with disabilities access to the same community that has been available to evearyone else, such as restaurants and shops. Then there is access, or lack of it. That means a wheelchair or a person with an awkward gait, balance problems, or fatigue must be able to cross a street, enter a room or use a bathroom. This is a lot to fit in a single act, which is why amendments were needed.
One reason this was not a good law was the unintended consequence of employers not hiring anyone with a disability for fear of lawsuits for non-compliance. The purpose was to make more jobs available, but that was not always the result. Also, the cost and inconvenience for small businesses to fulfill a multitude of government regulations must be enormous. In a sense, the ADA can cause discrimination against the people who have disabilities.
A big problem was accessibility in bathrooms and restaurants. Before going to a restaurant, I always called and confirmed there was no problem. On one occasion, I arrived and found steps leading to the tables. The manager told me there were only a few and they were small, but we found another solution. On that cold December evening, the manager escorted me outside to a patio door and I entered and joined my friends. I remember another occurrence where my friends could go through the front door, but I had to go through the kitchen.
It was exciting when the Act was signed. Now when I am out, I see more people in wheelchairs than when I started using one myself. I see more ramps and curb cuts, so maybe it is working. But I’m sure there are stories I have not heard. The ProCon.org site has an ACLU page about the ADA giving both pros and cons.
So the question this week is: Do you think the ADA is a good law for those of us with disabilities? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Notes and Links:
ADA Amendments effective Jan 2009
History of the ADA