Week 5 Discussion
This week we will study the purpose and scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how the vision of the ADA was curtailed by a series of court cases, giving rise to the need for the ADA Amendments Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 as the first comprehensive landmark disability rights law in the United States.
Almost immediately, businesses and private entities began lawsuits to challenge its protections for people with disabilities. Mainly, these lawsuits targeted the accessibility modifications for people with disabilities because business owners felt that it was too burdensome and expensive to comply with accessibility. However, lawyers found it easiest to challenge the ADA’s provisions establishing who and what counted as “disabled.”
As a result, almost 30 years of chipping-away at the definition of disability in the ADA meant it was nearly impossible for many people with disabilities to qualify for the protections of the ADA, or to enforce its accessibility provisions. We’ve also studied in this course how critical it is to establish one’s disability and claim a disability identity in order to access the protections of disability rights laws.
Then, in 2008, groups of Americans with disabilities organized all across the US to propose amending the ADA to restore its former protections and its promise of a truly accessible world. I was proud to work on this effort while I worked for the American Association of People with Disabilities – instrumental in organizing those voices into a political force for change. We were successful in persuading Congress to pass the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), signed by President George W. Bush in 2008.
The chief accomplishments of the ADAAA were to restore the broader definition of what it means to be disabled, as originally intended in the ADA. You can read more HERE
The ADAAA also lists specific disabilities that are protected so that there is much less confusion for the courts in establishing that a person with a disability qualifies for its protections. You can see how each group of people with disabilities has been impacted by the passage of the ADAAA in this week’s readings.
After reviewing the ADA and the ADAAA guide and this week’s readings:
1. Briefly describe any two of the five titles of the ADA (employment, public services, public accommodations, telecommunications, miscellaneous), summarized in the link below. How do you think these 5 tenets were selected by advocates and lawmakers, and what purpose do they serve towards creating a more equitable society?
2. Why was the ADAAA necessary and how could it have been avoided – i.e. do you think the original intent of the ADA could have been preserved and how?
2. How do you think the legal protections and accessibility mandated by the ADA and ADAAA might impact a young person born with a disability today as compared to 30 years ago?