Two individuals in wheelchairs and a service dog at a public facility

Celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Did you know…

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) just turned 27 years old!  The ADA was, and still is, the most far reaching civil rights statute in the world, providing protection from discrimination for more than 56 million Americans!

The ADA ensures 5 basic rights for people with disabilities throughout America:

  1. Employment (Title I) – Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and prevents employers from discriminating in the hiring process, and all other aspects of employment.
  2. Public Services (Title II) – People with disabilities cannot be denied public services, including programs, activities and public transportation systems that are available to people without disabilities.
  3. Public Accommodations (Title III) – Construction of public facilities (i.e. restaurants, libraries, stores, etc.) must be accessible and existing buildings must remove all reasonable barriers.
  4. Telecommunications (Title IV) – Companies offering telecommunication services must also offer telephone relay services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  5. Miscellaneous (Title V) – Prevents the mistreatment (i.e. threats or retaliation) against people who utilize or advocate for their ADA rights.

At the time of its passage, the law was met with both excitement by persons with disabilities, and skepticism by many businesses as they worked to comply with the new regulations.  Now, 27 years later, it has become commonplace for homes, businesses, and public facilities to be built with an array of accessibility features, such as ramps, wider doorways, and elevators.

What this means is that an entire generation of citizens has grown up with the expectation that there should be no limitations imposed upon their mobility and no discrimination levied against them in the job market. Despite these advances, people with disabilities still struggle in building fulfilling careers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016) reports that:

  • 10.5% – Unemployment rate for people with disabilities v. 4.6% for people without disabilities.
  • Approx. 80% of people with disabilities were not in the labor force at all… even though only 30% of people without disabilities were not seeking employment!
  • Those with disabilities who do have jobs are more likely to be employed part time and are still less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree.

Now is the time for all of us to sharpen our skills and consider either returning to the workforce or entering it for the first time. The ADA was intended to open the world to people with disabilities, in hopes that employers would then recognize the potential of all capable applicants.

Looking for employment counseling or placement services? We can help you connect you with your desired occupation through GSIL’s Employment Services. We’ve also expanded our Student Transition Services to help get young individuals started on the right path. We also encourage everyone to become a better advocate for yourself and others.

The promise of the ADA was to tear down barriers to promote equality and opportunity based on the overriding principle that we are a stronger nation when we include all. To do that, all Americans need to be given equal opportunity to live up to their full potential.

So let us celebrate the progress and continue dreaming for the future!  Happy Birthday, ADA!

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