Monday, July 27, 2015

25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Sunday, July 26 marked the silver anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark federal law which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA also created clear accessibility standards and requirements for employers, governments, places of public accommodation, and transportation services. President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990, in a ceremony on the White House lawn which included a number of disability rights advocates.

Signing ceremony for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
ADA signing ceremony, July 26, 1990.
(AP Photo/Barry Thumma)

The U.S. Congress outlined the purpose of the ADA in a lengthy and moving "Findings" section, codified today at 42 U.S.C. § 12101(a). Lawmakers noted that "physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person's right to fully participate in all aspects of society, yet many people with physical or mental disabilities have been precluded from doing so because of discrimination." The ADA drafters expressed concern over the lack of legal remedies available for persons with disabilities who face such discrimination, compared to the already-protected classes of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, and age. "[T]he Nation's proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals," declared Congress, and "the continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous."

The ADA National Network has created an ADA Anniversary website which contains numerous FAQs, multimedia resources, and links to more information about the ADA, its history, and its impact on the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice enforces compliance with ADA standards. DOJ's Civil Rights Division contains a Disability Rights Section and also maintains the information clearinghouse provides the text of the law and its 2010 amendments, as well as design standards implemented by DOJ rulemaking and technical assistance materials, such as frequently-asked questions or guidance on topics like service animals and voting difficulties.

To learn more about the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for the subject heading "United States. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." You'll find titles like Understanding the ADA (KF480 .G67 2013), the Americans with Disabilities Act Handbook (KF3469 .P47 2003), and the complete legislative history of the 1990 ADA via HeinOnline. To learn more about disability discrimination in general, a subject heading search for "People with disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States" will return titles like Disabilities and the Law (KF480 .R672 2015:Spring & online in WestlawNext) and What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement (KF480 .P45 2012). For assistance with locating these or other library resources about the Americans with Disabilities Act, be sure to Ask a Librarian.