Those that were born after July 26, 1990 have grown up in a world knowing that equal rights regarding disabilities is a guarantee, not just a promise. Transportation, jobs, schools and other public places are all available to anyone regardless of their ability. Before 1990, discriminatory practices such as not hiring a person with disabilities, restaurants not being accessible, and more were all legal. But on July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.), the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
Although the A.D.A. bans discrimination, there are still forms of discrimination happening in our world. For instance, in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 31 percent of working-age people with disabilities had a job compared to the 75 percent of those without disabilities. AbleLight fights against this inequity with employment support services including our Career Connections program, helping people with disabilities find jobs and sustained success with employment. There are many programs like this across the United States, educating employers on the simple changes they can make to incorporate someone with a disability, and the advantages of being an inclusive employer.
Besides striving to become more equal in the workplace, people with disabilities are becoming more and more visible in the general public’s eye. Many television programs and movies featuring people with disabilities have come out recently, including the movie, “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” the Netflix documentary, “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution” and the Netflix show, “Atypical.” Not only are disabilities more prominent in programming but Hollywood is actually using actors with real disabilities instead of actors portraying someone with a disability. This is huge for representation and inclusion, and is a major step for more visibility and acceptance for the general public who may not interact regularly with people with disabilities.
The A.D.A. has provided so many opportunities for people with disabilities in our society and those opportunities are growing every day due to organizations like ANCOR, AbleLight, The Arc, Easterseals, Disability:IN and so many others. We can all work together to make sure the next 30 years create as much progress as the past 30 years.
Here are four ways that you can safely celebrate the 30th anniversary of the A.D.A at home:
- Find out more about disability employment milestones. The A.D.A. is often the most visible and celebrated milestone within the disability employment movement but the disability community has done so much since then as well. Check out the Disability and Employment: A Timeline that explores key milestones in the disability employment movement from the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Join a virtual rally. Grassroots activism was critical to the passing of the A.D.A. Rallies and marches bring the disability community member and advocates together in-person to promote their important causes. This year, with the coronavirus pandemic in place, many organizations are gathering online to hear from disability leaders and share personal experiences. Check out the June 26 virtual rally the Harkin Institution is planning.
- Participate in a virtual disability pride parade. Disability Pride Parades originated as a way to end the stigma around disability, promote the idea that disability is a natural, valuable part of diversity and to celebrate people with disabilities. Traditionally, these parades are held in-person and organized to happen across the country. However due to the pandemic, many organizations have chosen to move their events to a virtual format. Check out Chicago’s Disability Pride Parade. Easterseals is encouraging people to use the hashtag, #VirtualDisabilityPride on July 26th. Make sure to share signs, photos, videos and stories about their disabilities experiences.
- Find articles or books by authors with disabilities. By researching and reading these pieces, a different viewpoint will emerge and increase understanding and acceptance. “Nothing About Us Without Us” is a popular slogan within the disability community to encourage people to work WITH people with disabilities instead of deciding what is best for them. Some great works include: Disability Visibility: FIRST-PERSON STORIES FROM THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, edited by Alice Wong; Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law, by Haben Girma; and Forbes contributors, Andrew Pulrang and Denise Brodey, who write articles regarding disability practices, policies and workplace diversity.