In 2019, The Americans with Disabilities Act Turns 29. As it teeters on the precipice of a new decade, it made us think about how the ADA will continue to develop civil rights policy of tomorrow. As we move toward the ADA Anniversary join us as we review some ideas about the ADA’s past and hopes for the future.
Every July, the Disability Community turns its attention to the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law on July 26, 1990 the ADA remains America’s landmark legislation supporting the inclusion of individuals with disabilities at work, on public transportation, in businesses, and in our communities. While this year’s anniversary of legislation is not always as poetic as a round number like 30 or 50, there are some wonderful aspects about the ADA reaching its 29th year in addition to marking another year of civil rights afforded to all persons who currently have or will have a disability.
Like any of us who have looked at the last years of their 20s to prepare for the transition to their 30s, one wonders how this shift in age will affect the actions of the next part of our lives. As the ADA sits on the cusp of turning 30 we could take a similar look at the legislation and question if its future will also change in the same way as an individual moving from their 20s to their 30s. Will the ADA continue to be the fiery controversial legislation of youth, or transition to a more mature policy of the next decade? In the same way one might notice a shifting waistline as we age, one might also wonder (in a policy and implementation sense) if the ADA will bulk up or trim down? Will it seem to grow heavy with specific distinctions and engagement with multiple disability groups, or will we slim down to a more trim and policy weight (that may or may not explicitly represent the miles that have been travelled? Maybe like the activities of the average 30 year old, our approach to disability will become even more family oriented and focused on maintaining a friendly neighborhood and communal spaces. Perhaps then we will be looking to the ADA for protections that support families and the access and accommodations tied to parents with disabilities as well as children with disabilities. If we are to continue with our aging metaphor, we might also see the ADA may also slide back into a second adolescence of increased activism and no compromise for the values of inclusion – being used again by multiple communities as a means of actively engaging and enacting radical policy change at the grassroots level . At 29, the future of the ADA continues to be even more important for a generation of Americans who have refused to stand on the tradition or stereotype of “getting old. “ For the generation of aging Baby Boomers that are approaching retirement and plan on continuing to live in their homes and communities, the ADA offers the protections that will ensure inclusive, accessible communities that are a key component to aging and living at home.
No matter how the ADA is implemented in the next decade, we must admit that its presence over the last 29 years has already had an effect on the perception of the disability community and the nation of individuals that the ADA protects – showing that disability inclusion will never be a flash in the pan issue, but a very real part of the civil rights fabric of our country. Over the next four weeks of July, we encourage you to consider the past 29 years of the ADA as well as what its protections mean for the future, and offer your thoughts on the ADA of 2019 as we move toward ADA30 in 2020.