Happy 25th, ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act!

Last updated: May 22, 2016

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So what is the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act? (Read on, even if you are not in the United States.)

A great place to find an answer is in this article from the July 2015 Disability Connection Newsletter:
10 Things to Know about the Americans with Disabilities Act. The first item answers the “what is it” question.

That information came from a tweet by @Disability.Gov.

Any U.S.-based technical communicators reading this blog post really should know at least three of the items on this list.

  1. The answer to “what is it” in item 1
  2. Employers' obligations in item 4 – because they may affect you personally one day, and because you can help to ensure that your workplace supports the ADA
  3. YOUR rights under the ADA (self-explanatory?!) – see item 3

As @AccessibleJoe tweeted, the ADA was “response to appalling problem: widespread, systemic, inhumane discrimination against people with disabilities.” He linked to the Washington Post article by Robert L. Burgdorf Jr., co-author of the ADA. There really are some horror stories in the years before the ADA!

You can travel 25 years back in time and re-experience the signing of the ADA into law on July 26, 1990 by the President George H. W. Bush. This link goes to a page with multiple versions of the video with captions or audio description of his speech.

You can stay in the present and watch President Barack Obama's speech celebrating the 25th anniversary – it's captioned and transcribed. He honors some of the people who helped make the ADA happen. Take a 15-minute break to hear about some of the politicians and activists who made this huge change. May we be worthy enough to follow in their footsteps (or wheel tracks) in making accessibility a human right everywhere on the planet!

You see, the ADA might be for the U.S., but it has inspired legislation around the world.

The ADA has spurred numerous countries to enact legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. These countries have looked to the ADA as an inspiration and a model in crafting their own legislative proposals.

Proof? A quick Google search gave me two resources:

Gostin's paper reveals the biggest impact the ADA has had on the world: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD was modelled on the ADA! Read the full text of the convention.

In closing, I’d like to suggest that you follow @Disability.gov on Twitter to stay updated on disability-related news that might be relevant for your job – and for you. Their home is Disability.gov, the U.S. federal government website for “information on disability programs and services nationwide”. There’s also @ADANationalThe Americans With Disabilities Act National Network providing information, guidance, and training on the ADA.

Additional resources are on this website at Resources for Attention Deficit Disorder.