Celebrating 25 Years of the ADA: A Peer’s Perspective

“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” – President George H. W. Bush

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990.

The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, tela-communications, and government services.

For those of us who have lived with a disability only after the ADA was enacted, it may be hard to fathom that wheelchair users were once told they could not be seated in a movie theater or restaurant because, “You are a fire hazard”.  Or that people were refused a job interview based on a physical disability. Something as simple as reserving a hotel room or catching a train was unthinkable prior to 1990. So were handicapped parking spots, but we won’t get on our soap box about that topic.

Passage and implementation of the ADA has improved the quality of life for all people living with the vast array of disabilities. The ADA also heightened the collective self-esteem in the community because universal design and inclusion serve as a concrete reminder that we are all deserving of the same opportunity for a quality lifestyle. We no longer need internalize a sense of shame or disdain for our disabilities due to a society that is indifferent. Full participation in employment, travel, housing options, and all aspects of the American lifestyle is still not a given for all living with a disability. Attitudinal barriers cannot be erased by laws alone.  However, as President Bush proclaimed upon signing the ADA 25 years ago, the wall surely has tumbled down!

Photo: Students from Millersville University celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA. 

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