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July 24, 2015

Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrates 25th Anniversary

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Twenty-five years ago this week, President George H.W. Bush signed a bill protecting the civil rights of disabled Americans, prohibiting discrimination and ensuring their access to public spaces.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) succeeded in mandating accessibility to public buildings and transit and fighting housing and workplace discrimination for millions of people with disabilities, as well as creating education opportunities where they never existed before.

Over half of the 56 million disabled people in the U.S. have severe disabilities. While the protections created by the ADA improved quality of life for many of them, disparities still remain. Forty-one percent of those with disabilities and of working age are employed, compared with 79 percent of people without disabilities.

To mark the milestone, President Barack Obama said the country needs to strive to provide better work opportunities for disabled individuals, whether by providing job training or creating stronger protections against workplace discrimination. “Whatever the reason, we have got to do better,” he said.

U.S. Representative Jim Langevin of Rhode Island was the first quadriplegic elected to Congress and said he remembers the many barriers restricting the disabled prior to the passage of ADA.

Langevin said more work needs to be done to provide employment and access to affordable and accessible transportation and housing to people with disabilities.

“We just need to get the word out and continue to realize the promise of ADA,” Langevin said.


Warm up questions
  1. What are some difficulties that people confined to wheelchairs face?
  2. What is the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA?
Critical thinking questions
  1. How could schools be more accessible for students in wheelchairs?
  2. Without ADA, what do you think life would be like for those who are physically disabled?
  3. Why is providing access to transportation so critical for those who are disabled?
  4. What can be done to improve employment opportunities for disabled Americans?

Extension Activity

Watch this report about a high school student with cerebral palsy who decided to challenge his school to experience life in a wheelchair, then have a class discussion about how this story relates to your own school and whether students there face similar challenges.

 

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