ADA Celebrates 22 Years

Legislation Started in 1990 Helps Create Equal Opportunities and Access for All People With Disabilities

Woman exiting bus in wheelchair

July 26 marked the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, the act was signed into law and marked a step toward creating equal opportunities and public access for people with disabilities.

Similar to the legislation that granted civil rights protections to individuals on the basis of race, gender and religion, the ADA has created opportunities for people with disabilities in the business, employment, education, transportation and government services realms.

In 2008, the ADA was amended to broaden the definition of disability to provide coverage to more people.

“The promise of the ADA was that all Americans should have equal access and equal opportunity, including Americans with disabilities,” said President Obama in a statement about the anniversary. “The ADA was about independence and the freedom to make of our lives what we will. We celebrate that today, and we recommit ourselves to ending discrimination in all its forms.”

President Marks Occasion

Even though the ADA has done much to better the disabled community, much work still needs to be done in all areas to ensure the progress started by the ADA continues.

Recognizing that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is still high, President Obama signed an executive order to ensure government employment for individuals with disabilities last year. This year, the Obama administration renewed the effort to support employment opportunities.

As part of those efforts, the administration is working on a draft comprehensive strategy to improve compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires accessibility to federal agencies’ electronic and information technology. Although the legislation was put into place 12 years ago, barriers still exist that prevent people with disabilities from having full access to the government through Web sites and other electronic forms of communication. The administration hopes these renewed efforts will make it easier for people with disabilities to apply for government jobs online.

Census Bureau Outlines New Numbers on Disabilities

In time for the ADA anniversary, the U.S. Census Bureau has released a new report on the state of disabilities.

“Americans with Disabilities: 2010” reveals that although the percentage of people with disabilities (19 percent) has not increased since the last census in 2005, the total number of people with a disability is around 56.7 million, an increase of 2.2 million in the last five years. These numbers highlight the importance of provisions such as those guaranteed by the ADA for people with disabilities.

The breakdown for specific types of disabilities is as follows:

  • 8 million (age 15 and older) and 4 million (age 65 and older): hearing difficulty
  • 8 million: vision difficulty
  • 31 million: difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  • 4 million: use a wheelchair for mobility
  • 12 million: use a cane, crutches or walker
  • 20 million: difficulty lifting and grasping
  • 9 million: difficulty with at least one activity of daily living (such as getting around inside the home, bathing, dressing and eating)
  • 15 million: difficulty with one or more instrumental activities of daily living (such as housework, using the phone and preparing meals).

The report also showed that, in general, people 80 years or older were eight times more likely to have a disability.

For adults age 21 to 64, the median monthly income was $1,961 for people with disabilities compared to $2,724 for people without disabilities.

Uninsured rates were not considered statistically different: The rate for people with no disability was 21.9 percent compared with 21.0 percent for people with severe disabilities and 21.3 percent for people with nonsevere disabilities.

For employment, the report showed that 41 percent of people with a disability between the ages of 21 and 64 were employed compared to 28% of people with severe disabilities.

In total, 59 percent of people with severe disabilities receive public assistance of some form.

Download the report here.