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Celebrating the 31st Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

July 26, 2021

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law; this landmark civil rights law affirmed the inherent dignity of every person, regardless of disability. The ADA prohibits discrimination by local and state governments, provides standards for privately owned businesses and commercial facilities, stands against discrimination in the workplace, and ensures equal access to healthcare, social services, transportation, and telecommunications. 

We are celebrating throughout the month of July by sharing resources for people with disabilities from across the federal government and our partners in the disability networks, and we've pulled them all together on this page. We're also sharing information about celebration events. Don't see your organization's materials?  Send us the details and links, and we'll see if we can add it. 

Looking for ways to celebrate? 

The ADA National Network's #ADA31 Anniversary Toolkit has social media graphics and sample posts, shareable materials, and links to archived events about the ADA.  

Funded by ACL's National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), the ADA National Network provides information, guidance and training on how to implement the ADA in order to support the mission to “assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.” The network includes 10 regional ADA centers located throughout the United States.

A White House Celebration and Proclamation Signing

President Biden and Vice President Harris hosted a ceremony at the White House to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the ADA. The event was attended by congressional leaders; leaders from the disability community, including ACL’s acting administrator Alison Barkoff; and advocates who helped to ensure the passage of the ADA, During the event, President Biden signed a proclamation that encouraged Americans to celebrate the impact of the ADA and the contributions of people with disabilities and affirmed the Administration’s commitment to “upholding and strengthening its protections — and continuing to advance equity, dignity, access, and inclusion.”

The White House also released a fact sheet highlighting some of the Administration's accomplishments and ongoing work to promote inclusion and accessibility.

Resources for COVID-19 "long haulers"

Here are some resources from ACL and our partners on "Long COVID":

  • ACL has published a guide to the community-based resources that can help people if they now need assistance to live in their own home, go to work or school, or participate in the community. These resources can provide information about what is available locally, help people connect to services, such as transportation and personal care attendants; help arrange reasonable accommodations and access vaccinations; and more. 
  • The Offices for Civil Rights at HHS and the Department of Justice released Joint guidance explaining when long COVID can be a disability under various federal civil rights laws. 
  • The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at the Department of Labor launched a new webpage that includes resources on long COVID, such as information on requesting and providing workplace accommodations. In addition, ODEP released a blog discussing the impact of long COVID on workers with disabilities.
  • The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services have published a new resource, Long COVID under Section 504 and the IDEA: A Resource to Support Children, Students, Educators, Schools, Service Providers, and Families.

Achieving the Promise of the ADA 

Across the federal government, we are working to advance equity and equal opportunity for people with disabilities. 

  • Expanded Access to Competitive Integrated Employment. The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and the Social Security Administration released a fact sheet on funding opportunities to expand access to competitive integrated employment for youth and adults with disabilities.

  • Helping Older Adults Access Assistive Tech: ACL has released a new fact sheet highlighting how partnerships between Assistive Technology Act programs and Older Americans Act programs can help provide older adults access tools and technology to support community living.

  • Expanded Opportunities for Accessible, Affordable Housing. The Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development are partnering to increase access to accessible, integrated, affordable housing and the services that support community living for people with disabilities. One focus of the collaboration is working with states participating in the Money Follows the Person program and public housing authorities that have unused housing choice vouchers for people who are leaving or at risk of entering nursing homes and other institutions, which can include people experiencing homelessness. HHS and HUD also are working to strengthen partnerships between housing and service networks at the state and local levels to streamline access to both housing and community services for people with disabilities.

  • Guidance on School Reopening for Students with Disabilities. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a Q&A on civil rights and the reopening of schools during the pandemic.

  • Innovations to Promote Employment and Support Direct Support Professionals: Two on-going ACL prize challenges are helping to promote innovation in the field and improve the lives of people with disabilities. The Inclusive Talent Pipeline for American Businesses prize competition seeks to help businesses expand their recruiting and retention programs to better include workers with disabilities and the Blazing New Trails for Community-Based Direct Support Professionals prize competition seeks to develop and pilot models that will transform the DSP workforce and improve the stability of home- and community-based services,

  • Vaccine Access for People with Disabilities: In June, ACL announced the launch of the Disability Information Assistance Line, the first national hotline to help people with disabilities access vaccinations in their communities and connect to information and services that promote independent living and address fundamental needs, such as food, housing, and transportation. This new infographic makes it easy to spread the word about this resource.

What HHS and other federal leaders are saying:
  • Sec. Becerra Reflects on the ADA at 31: In a blog post published on the 31st anniversary of the ADA, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra reflected on the its impact, lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of HHS’ work to advance inclusion and accessibility.     
  • “I am a brown, disabled, adopted scholar-activist:” NIDILRR Director Reflects on the ADA's impact:  In a ACL blog post, Dr. Anjali J. Forber-Pratt, Director of ACL's National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), reflects on the intersections of her identities and how her experiences have shaped her. She shares her vision for inclusion in disability research.

    "For as long as I can remember, I have been advocating for disability rights—starting with my own," she writes. "Since high school, the ADA has been at the core of that work."

  • Renewing our commitment to inclusive early childhood programs and practices: HHS' Administration for Children & Families published a blog post on the importance of high quality inclusive early childhood education and how ACF is supporting efforts designed to benefit children with disabilities in early childhood settings by promoting their development, supporting their relationships with peers, and preparing them for school. 

  • SAMHSA Celebrates the ADA: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Paolo del Vecchio writes a blog post reflecting on the ADA's personal significance as a person with lived experience of mental illness, addictions, and trauma and highlighting SAMHSA's ongoing work to support people with disabilities.

  • Supporting Students with Disabilities During the Pandemic: Suzanne B. Goldberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, writes on the Ed Blog about the importance of the ADA in education, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students with disabilities, and the department's work to address these challenges, including by supporting students with "long Covid."

  • Celebrating Olmstead: In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that people with disabilities have a right under the ADA to live and receive services in the most integrated setting possible. Acting Assistant Secretary for Aging and ACL Administrator Alison Barkoff's blog post celebrating the 22nd anniversary of this important ruling focuses on the unprecedented opportunities we have today to expand HCBS and finally realize the promise of Olmstead. 

Learn More about the ADA

  • The ADA Basics:  This overview from the ADA National Network summarizes the law, and the ADA Publications and Fact Sheets page on their website includes a wide variety of resources to help people with disabilities understand their rights under the ADA, as well as resources to help businesses, employers, health care providers and others ensure that people with disabilities have the equal access guaranteed by the ADA. 

  • ADA History and Impact: ACL and HHS' Office for Civil Rights created a website to celebrate the ADA by telling the story of how the ADA came to be, showcase some of the progress we have made as a country toward achieving its promise, and illustrate a little bit of the work being done by ACL and OCR, as well as other partners within HHS and across government. The site also shines a spotlight on the impact of the ADA by letting people with disabilities tell you a little bit about their lives.

  • A Self-Advocate's Perspective: Writing for our blog, ACL Center for Policy and Evaluation Intern Courtney Felle shared a personal reflection on the 31st anniversary of the ADA and the future of disability advocacy:

I believe in a future full of care, remembrance, and celebration for disabled leaders, past and present. A future in which disabled children will grow up already knowing both the highlights and the limits of the ADA; in which we commemorate important anniversaries, but also choose to recognize and practice our shared commitments to each other every day; and in which our communities hold space for everyone, without exceptions and with room for complexity. 

Congress should enact a comprehensive law requiting equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities, with broad coverage and setting clear, consistent, and enforceable standards prohibiting discrimination on the basis of handicap.

Such a statute should be packaged as a single comprehensive bill, perhaps under such a title as "The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1986." The recommendations which follow spell out more specifically the components which such a bill should contain in order to create a comprehensive and effective equal opportunity law for individuals with disabilities.

Last modified on 05/18/2023

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