Americans with Disabilities Act Turns 30
It's been 30 years since disability-rights activists saw President George H.W. Bush sign the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. The civil rights legislation prohibits discrimination based on ability. Christiano Sosa, executive director of The Arc of Colorado, said that what has come to be known as the "curb-cut effect," changes required under the ADA to remove barriers for full participation in society, have benefited everyone.
"When curbs were cut for people in wheelchairs," she said, "pretty soon, people with strollers walking their babies were able to benefit from those cuts in the sidewalk."
Critics of the ADA argued that the costs of improving accessibility would be too high and hurt businesses. After the legislation stalled in Congress, dozens of disability-rights activists shed their crutches and wheelchairs and crawled up all 100 of the U.S. Capitol building's front steps. The ADA was signed into law four months later.
Darla Stuart, executive director of the group Think+Change, said the costs of changes to include people with disabilities in public spaces and businesses turned out to be no more expensive than costs associated with living in nursing homes or other institutional settings.
"Additionally, for many people with disabilities, having access to the community, they became tax earners," she said. "They got jobs and they started earning funds that helped them manage their life."
Closed captioning, another innovation fueled by the ADA for people with hearing disabilities, also benefited fans at sports bars and participants in Zoom meetings. Smart devices including Alexa and Siri, and picture-based keyboards widely used by restaurants, can be linked to innovations in Augmentative and Alternative Communication, also made possible by the landmark disability-rights law.