Looking at the ADA 25 Years Later

By Richard I. Felton, Esq.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed on July 26, 1990, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. Things that seem every day in today's world didn't exist a mere 25 years ago. The ADA was,  according to Robert L. Burgdorf Jr., a disability rights scholar and legal advocate who wrote the first draft of the bill, "a response to an appalling problem:  widespread, systemic, inhumane discrimination against people with disabilities."

Disability in California

Consider the following:

  • In the 1970s, more than half of all children with disabilities were not receiving minimally adequate education.
  • State-run residential treatment facilities for people with disabilities were horrific.
  • Public and private transportation systems with accommodations for people with disabilities were practically non-existent. The same goes for curb cuts, ramped entrances and accessibility to government and public buildings.
  • Rights were denied—to vote, obtain a driver's license, enter courthouses….
  • "Ugly laws" in certain states restricted people from public places whose physical appearance were deemed unpleasant.         

What a difference a couple of decades have made. California state law also now prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Ramped entrances into buildings are commonplace, most sidewalks have curb cuts, public transportation systems have increased accessibility, private businesses are required to provide accessibility, and employers cannot discriminate in their hiring practices. And, the technological revolution has evolved in positive ways in terms of accommodations. People with hearing or speech impairments can use telephones, and closed captioning enables such individuals to enjoy what television has to offer. Even mobile devices have joined the movement.

Android users can find a wide variety of accessibility apps at the Marketplace, and Apple is highlighting the 25th anniversary of the ADA with a new App Store collection.

However, although great strides have been made to prohibit discrimination of those with disabilities, there is still a long way to go in terms of enforcement of requirements outlined in the ADA and California law. In our law practice at Gordon, Edelstein, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK), we see on a daily basis how a serious injury or illness can turn a person's life upside down, and the enormous impact accessibility accommodations stemming from the ADA can have on the lives of our clients.

At GEK we will continue to fight for justice on behalf of our clients and all those in the communities we serve, and we salute those who joined together in a bipartisan effort to begin to right the wrongs faced by those who were and continue to be discriminated against because of a disability.

 

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