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 was in an 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 the former Disability.Gov twitter account.
Any U.S.-based technical communicators reading this blog post really should know at least three of the items on this list.
- The answer to "What is It?" in item 1
- 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
- YOUR rights under the ADA (self-explanatory?!) – see item 3
As @AccessibleJoe tweeted, the ADA was a “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: George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act, July 26th, 1990 (22:02 minutes).
Twenty-five years later you can watch President Obama deliver remarks in the East Room of the White House celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. July 20, 2015 (14:44 minutes) – 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:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act at 25: The Highest Expression of American Values by Lawrence O. Gostin, Georgetown University Law Centre. You can download a PDF of this 2015 paper on this page. I was unable to check the accessibility of it as of this writing.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act and its impact on international and Latin American Law by Rodrigo Jiménez written in 2000 for the Alabama Law Review Vol. 52:1:419. I think this PDF is scanned and therefore inaccessible.
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 translated into several spoken languages and signed languages.
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 was Disability.gov, a U.S. Federal government website for "information on disability programs and services nationwide". There's also [shut down by President Trump, January 2013] @ADANational and The Americans With Disabilities Act National Network providing information, guidance, and training on the ADA.
Disability.gov was a United States Government inter-agency web portal that provided access to comprehensive information about disability-related programs and services from 2002-2016. The site contained thousands of trusted resources, updated daily, from the federal government, educational institutions, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.
Disability.gov offered information for the more than 50 million Americans with disabilities. It was also a reliable resource for parents of children with disabilities, employers, workforce and human resource professionals, veterans, military families, caregivers and other community members. The site offered resources on ten key subjects: benefits, civil rights, community life, education, emergency preparedness, employment, health, housing, technology and transportation.
Disability.gov and its associated social media accounts were sunset in December 2016 and are no longer available. Disability.gov currently redirects to a page of disability related-resources available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Federal resources on disability and employment can be found on the website of the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) at What can You Do?