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On This Date: The Americans With Disabilities Act Became Law

by Countable | Updated on 7.23.18

On July 26, 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, which extended civil rights protections to people with disabilities and looked to prevent discrimination against the disabled in the workplace and in public places. The ADA covers both mental and physical disabilities, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees.

Why was it needed?

While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin — it didn’t establish similar protections for people with disabilities. As a result, disabled people faced discrimination in the workforce without having recourse, and many public places lacked modifications that would’ve made them more accessible for disabled Americans.

Early versions of disability legislation were introduced in Congress in 1988 and 1989 and the idea began to gain bipartisan support. The arrival of George H.W. Bush in the White House, following his victory in the 1988 election, brought even more focus to the issue, as the Bush administration drafted its own proposals and worked with Congress to refine theirs.

What did it do?

The final version of the ADA made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in the workforce, at public places (including government buildings, public transportation, schools, etc.) or businesses, and in telecommunications so that those with hearing and speech disabilities could use equivalent services.

Employers were required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees — meaning that aspects of their jobs would be changed to allow the person to perform in their role, such as schedule changes or providing special equipment to the worker. But businesses weren’t required to provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship because of the difficulty or cost of the implementing those changes. The job of enforcing these requirements fell to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC), which had been created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The ADA’s definition of public accommodations was written to include stores, schools, restaurants, healthcare facilities, hotels, and recreational venues — all of which were required by the bill to remove “architectural barriers” that impede disabled people’s access. It also provided protections for service animals and their handlers, while requiring that businesses allow them into their facility.

Telecommunications companies were required by the ADA to offer “functionally equivalent” services to disabled consumers like those with hearing or speech impairments. This led to the creation of several technologies that transcribe messages into text calls or video recordings.

What did Congress do?

Both chambers of Congress passed their own versions of the ADA with bipartisan support, but the bill went through conference committee to iron out the differences between the competing House and Senate bills. The day after the House agreed to the conference report on a 377-28 vote, now-retired Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) — the original sponsor of the ADA — gave the Senate’s first ever speech in American Sign Language so that his brother could understand him.

Ultimately, the Senate passed the conference report on a nearly-unanimous 91-6 vote which sent the legislation to President Bush’s desk to be signed into law. At the signing ceremony, Bush praised the efforts of disability rights activists, and remarked that he hoped the Americans with Disabilities Act becoming law would “let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

What has its impact been?

Since its enactment, the ADA has remained the most significant piece of disability legislation to become law. The law has triggered several significant Supreme Court decisions, including Bates v. UPS, which required the company to make accommodations for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Since the ADA became law, the percentage of people with disabilities who are in the workforce has actually declined from 50 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2010, although some attribute this decline to the aging population. According to the 2010 Census, about 57 million Americans (or 19 percent of the U.S. population) have a disability, meaning that there are approximately 23 million disabled Americans in the workforce.

The ADA also got a recent makeover during the presidency of George W. Bush, who signed legislation expanding its protections into law in 2008. The update directed the EEOC to enforce a more lenient standard for assessing a person’s impairment and it also broadened the definition “major life activities” used to determine disability to include many routine daily activities — which has allowed the ADA to protect more Americans.

― Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: White House / Public Domain)

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Written by Countable

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(37)
  • Azrael
    07/26/2017
    ···

    And as of 1/2017 it's being dismantled one piece at a time Do your jobs Protect our rights

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  • Alice
    Voted Excited
    12/07/2018
    ···

    Its important that people with disabilities get the same benefits and opportunities are as available to them as people without disabiities. So much talent could be lost. So much genius could be lost. Let us come together and protect the ADA program. This able bodied person thanks you. My cousin who had polio thanks you.

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  • John
    Voted Angry
    12/06/2018
    ···

    AS a disabled veteran, ADA was a commendable effort., BUT is has not helped me one bit with my disability , Needs great improvement.

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  • NanceinNJ
    07/26/2017
    ···

    Let us all work to protect the rights of the disabled and stop efforts that would disadvantage them in both healthcare and education.

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  • verymary
    07/26/2017
    ···

    This week alone has made it feel like centuries, if not eons, since an American President has cared about the American people.

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  • Anne
    02/15/2018
    ···

    As a retired Special Education teacher and Department Chair, I can well remember when the ADA was passed. This was such important legislation then and it continues to be required law today. Any rollback of these laws is absolutely shameful. Too many people have worked too hard to make sure the playing field is level. That is a continuing fight that all must engage in.

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  • Vlad
    07/26/2017
    ···

    GW had a good heart and a tough skin and that made him PRESIDENTIAL.

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  • Karen
    07/26/2017
    ···

    As Deaf American, deaf people still face discrimination in employment. Hospitals & the offices of doctors/dentists/lawyers still don't provide Deaf patients ASL interpreters. Lacks the promotions in employment. ADA doesn't have strong teething words because they don't strongly enforce the business, corporations, medical, & levels of government/courts. Deaf people don't have full & strong Civil Rights.

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  • Linda
    07/26/2017
    ···

    I applaud this law which has helped so many.

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  • Shirley
    07/27/2017
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    It really made a difference for me personally. A great law both parties agree on . Thank you Bush family.

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  • Christine
    07/26/2018
    ···

    Bravo👏👏👏 NOW let’s stop the ATTACKS from the illegitimate djt-pence administration.

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  • RedtheRose
    12/12/2017
    ···

    Keep this intact and do more! Disabled lives matter. Have a heart!

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  • Nathan
    01/05/2018
    ···

    While the ADA has done immense good, I would argue that many federal and state programs fail to live up to its core goal of providing individuals with disabilities have the Right to live in their communities in the least restrictive environment possible. Housing is especially bleak. Individuals are essentially left choosing between living in institutions that may not be appropriate for people their age, or with their mental and social levels of functioning. Or accepting what they can afford from slumlords willing to accept their vouchers for payment from the government. Landlords should not be able to deny individuals with disabilities the Right to use the only income at their disposal for housing. And they should be provided enough money to be able to afford safe, middle class housing. Life with a disability is difficult enough, without also being subjected to abject poverty.

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  • Nancy
    07/27/2017
    ···

    The ADA leaves it up to employers to comply. If not, it leaves the disabled (me) the choice to let the transgressions go, or to sue. There was no real way to enforce any part of the law. Handicap parking is in public lots. These are not under police jurisdiction. We need a REAL law for the disabled, but we're not likely to get it under this Congress and pres.

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  • Azrael
    07/26/2018
    ···

    And traitor trump is trying to dismantle along with healthcare

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  • SneakyPete
    07/26/2018
    ···

    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Three brief comments regarding the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) : 1. It goes with out saying that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a long time coming and was needed to be passed into law. 2. Country to comments made here, President Trump is NOT taking steps to degrade the provisions contained in the “ADA” Legislation. 3. This supposed “Degrading” just another attempt in attacking President Trump with a Falsehood story. On July 26, 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, which extended civil rights protections to people with disabilities and looked to prevent discrimination against the disabled in the workplace and in public places. The ADA covers both mental and physical disabilities, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin — it didn’t establish similar protections for people with disabilities. The final version of the ADA made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in the workforce, at public places (including government buildings, public transportation, schools, etc.) or businesses, and in telecommunications so that those with hearing and speech disabilities could use equivalent services. 7*26*18 .......

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  • Phyllis
    07/27/2017
    ···

    Protect this Act. It involves our Veterans also.

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  • David
    07/26/2017
    ···

    It's obviously very apparent that because we have swayed from our original Judeo Christian foundations that we now need to have endless numbers of laws to try to dictate to citizens of how they need to behave. If each person had the conviction to live a lifestyle pleasing to the Creator God of the Bible, we would not need all the laws trying to dictate to us what God has already placed in our hearts.

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  • Jieun
    08/01/2017
    ···

    I think empathic simulation in disabled people’s shoes would resonate with many none-disabled people to improve the society toward disability-friendly environment. I’ll introduce an organization with relevant programs to commemorate ADA’s day: http://disability.illinois.edu/empathic-modelingdisability-simulation

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  • Peggy
    07/28/2018
    ···

    One of the best pieces of legislation; it opened doors and allowed those with disabilities not be marginalized. Bravo and we need to keep it strong, and continue to provide more ways to open up the world to those who face challenges in every day life.

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  • Millie
    07/27/2017
    ···

    My daughter has a mental disability from who knows, probably the vaccines which were forced on us by Big Pharma. This country has a responsibility to help the disabled. Take from the rich and give to the poor is what needs to be done. GET RID OF CONGRESSIONAL WELFARE, and tax the rich and there will be enough for all.

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  • Vince
    07/26/2018
    ···

    Forcing any private party to cater to anyone is against the freedom of association clause in the first amendment. Both this act and the civil liberties act are unconstitutional.

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