Twenty-five years ago, on July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA and the subsequent ADA Amendments Act, signed in 2008 by President George W. Bush, expanded opportunities for Americans with disabilities by reducing barriers and changing perceptions. As a result, our society is more open and accessible to people with disabilities today than it was just a generation ago.
The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability in employment, services rendered by state and local governments, places of public accommodation, transportation, and telecommunication services.
While the ADA mandates equal access to employment for people with a physical or mental impairment, two-thirds of Americans with disabilities are still unemployed or underemployed, a number that has not changed since the ADA became law. Truly, employment remains the unfulfilled promise of the ADA.
In a recent Catholic News Service article, Marian Vessels, director of the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center in Rockville, Md., suggested the need to address disabilities that may not be apparent or obvious, noting: “accommodations need to be made for people with psychiatric issues, people with PTSD, people with a variety of different learning disabilities.” Addressing these concerns is critical to expanding opportunity for those with mental or intellectual disabilities, as well as those with physical disabilities.
The Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), partnered with the ADA Legacy Project, the Collaborative on Faith and Disability, and the ADA National Network to celebrate the progress and recommit to the promise of the ADA. We developed worship and education resources, a proclamation for faith communities to commit to full implementation of the ADA, and hosted an interfaith worship service celebrating 25 years of the ADA, July 26 in Washington, D.C.
While the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA has passed, the opportunity to recommit ourselves to expanding access and opportunity for Americans with disabilities remains, whether those disabilities are apparent or not.
By Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, Director of Interfaith Engagement
American Association of People with Disabilities