National Disability Independence Day is coming up on July 26th! Prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it was legal to pay a person less just because of their disability. It was legal for a restaurant to refuse to serve a person with disabilities. The lack of accessible restrooms meant people with disabilities might have to use diapers when traveling by train or other public transportation.

Thankfully, the ADA, which was signed by President H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, changed these unacceptable circumstances and made other accommodations in public places, work environments, education and other spaces. For more than 30 years, the law has worked to prevent various forms of discrimination against people with disabilities and given the nation much to celebrate. However, there are still areas where the law could offer better accommodations to individuals with disabilities. Advocates are helping to bring these shortcomings to light and ushering in the next generation of accessibility standards.

In honor of the 31st anniversary of this pivotal legislation, Verbit would like to shed light on some of the ways that the ADA has improved the lives of millions of Americans, as well as encourage important next steps the nation must take to foster greater inclusivity.

TITLE I: The ADA at Work and Employee Accommodations

The first title of the ADA tackles discrimination in the workplace. The law prohibits hiring practices and employment circumstances that prevent people with disabilities from having an equal opportunity to obtain a job and perform their work-related tasks.

Title I often requires that employers provide physical accessibility in the form of modified workspaces. Other common steps a business might take include offering captioning, Braille, sign language interpreters, accessible software and implementing policies that allow service animals. The law is a tool that gives people with disabilities the power to combat unfair employment practices. Still, the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is twice as high as the rate for those without a reported disability. Statistics illustrate the need for further efforts to accommodate disabled workers and to educate employers about the value of inclusivity.

TITLE II: Government Services and Accessibility

The second title of the ADA discusses accommodations related to government entities. School districts, libraries, courts and transit authorities are just a few of the entities subject to this title of the Act.

Some examples of people with disabilities using Title II of the ADA to address injustices include:

  • Prevention of invasive and unnecessary inquiries into people’s medical health based on their disability
  • Mandating that child protective services offer interpreters for Deaf people involved in custody proceedings
  • Preventing surcharges for auxiliary aids such as sign-language providers for individuals seeking food stamps or medical care

Recent studies indicate that the Federal government still needs to improve accessibility issues, especially when it comes to their online content. President Biden signed an Executive Order in late June focused on expanding diversity, inclusion and accessibility efforts in Federal workplaces.

TITLE III: Businesses and Accommodations for Consumers

Businesses aren’t just responsible for making things accessible for their employees. Thanks to the ADA’s Title III, ramps and bathroom accommodations are standard in restaurants, theaters and retail shopping centers. This provision helped many people with disabilities achieve new levels of independence and take part in more public activities.

Accessibility for consumers becomes more complex when a business’s resources are online. Of course, the importance of online access is far greater today than legislators could have imagined when they drafted the ADA. This issue has recently led to an increase in lawsuits.

Breaking Down Virtual Barriers: Accessibility Online is a Work in Progress

Recent cases related to online services have led to uncertainty regarding access for the Deaf and Blind communities. While legislators proposed adopting the W3’s WCAG 2.1 standards as guidelines for business website compliance, that effort has made little progress.
According to many advocates, more guidance and standards for virtual settings would be a welcomed improvement to the ADA.

Looking back at the last 31 years since the creation of the ADA, there is a lot of progress to celebrate. It is up to everyone to ensure the continued fostering of an increasingly inclusive environment that will benefit everyone, including the 40.6 million Americans living with disabilities.

Verbit offers captioning, transcription, and audio description technology that supports and empowers workers, students and all members of the public. Our 99%+ accurate closed captioning service is helping top universities, media providers, businesses and others reach the widest audience possible. Organizations looking to improve web accessibility to comply with international standards and the evolving legal expectations can rely on Verbit’s AI-powered tools. Reach out to Verbit for more information about our accessibility solutions.