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25 Years After ADA, Americans with Disabilities Gain Social Acceptance. Next Up: Jobs.

The Americans with Disabilities Act took effect exactly 25 years ago today. What is its legacy?

Last week, President Barack Obama commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with a celebration at the White House. Although the landmark legislation was signed into law on July 21, 1990, it didn’t officially take effect until July 26. So if we want to get really technical (and why not?), ADA actually turns 25 today.


Plenty of outlets riffed and mused on the quarter-century milestone. The New York Times, for example, hosted an extended conversation on ADA’s legacy as well as where focus must be placed moving forward. Several writers contributed articles assessing the current state of disabled Americans

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson wrote that the next 25 years of ADA need to be spent elevating the profile of disabled people — the largest minority in the country — throughout society:

“As disabled people, we are everywhere now, included in the fabric of social life and public engagement made possible by the ADA. However, many of us remain hidden, and barriers — despite the proliferation of ramps — remain.”

Samuel Bagenstos lauded the legal protections made possible through ADA, but noted that the law’s most notable downside is that it is mostly powerless to prevent discrimination, particularly in the workforce:

“The one area where the ADA has most clearly failed to achieve its goals is in employment. Department of Labor statistics showthat roughly two-thirds of working-age people with disabilities remain out of the work force (compared to about a quarter of working-age people without disabilities). Those numbers are not materially different than they were when Congress adopted the ADA in 1990.”

The common refrain throughout all the coverage in The New York Times is that — as is the case with many social movements — the first phase requires legal protection and progress. The second phase calls for growing levels of social acceptance built on the back of the new norms established by the law. We appear to be at the turning point where Americans with disabilities will step up the efforts to destigmatize themselves in the eyes of society.

Read more at The New York Times.

Stock photo©nullplus / Getty

Below, comedian and actress Maysoon Zayid advocates for fellow performers with disabilities. Why shouldn’t disabled roles go to disabled actors?


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