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The ADA Turns 32 

By Julianna Wright

Today is the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This landmark legislation affirms and protects the rights of people with disabilities in a wide range of public settings. Since the ADA came into effect, American society has benefited tremendously; nevertheless, there is still significant work to be done. 

The Benetech community is comprised of many overlapping segments representing disability rights, accessibility experts, blindness organizations, students, Bookshare members, and allies. In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we invited the members of the community to share their perspectives on the impact that this legislation has had on their lives as well as their vision for the future of disability rights. To celebrate the progress made and those working to advance disability rights in the future, we invite you to explore these reflections.  

The Impact of the ADA 

“The ADA (along with my university’s disabilities program) provided vital accommodations during my bachelor’s degree. These included extra time on tests and assignments, enlarged print when needed, plus others.” – Hannah, West Virginia 

“Before ADA, transit drivers commonly failed to announce transit stops. Now, most transit vehicles have automated, audible stop announcements. Before ADA there were no talking ATMs. Now nearly all ATMs talk. Before ADA, access was treated as an act of charity. Now it’s a right!” – Frank, California 

“Before the ADA, I couldn’t enjoy going to the movies with friends. Thanks to the ADA and audio descriptions, most movies are accessible. Now I enjoy them like I did when I could see.” – Anne, Georgia 

“Before I got introduced to ADA services I was hardly going out with friends and hadn’t gone to college yet because I felt bad that I needed to intervene in people’s schedules to be driven everywhere. I adjusted after a couple of years and I hang with my friends more as well as use the services to go places such as college.” – Esli, Illinois 

“The ADA laws give us equal access to our society, nothing extra or special, just equal.” – Laurie, Iowa 

Looking Toward the Future 

“Underemployment and unemployment of people with disabilities is, for me, one of the single most disempowering features of our modern day. I believe that all organizations should be required to hire the same percentage of people with disabilities as is reflected in the population of their state.” – Breandan, New York 

“In the next 30 years I would like to see it be illegal not to have an accessible route for people with wheelchairs or have a too tight space for them to fit. I would also like to see Braille on every possible place — packaging, signs, and so much more.” – Alaina, Washington 

 “I want more support for accessible websites and apps. I want to not have to worry about going on a website and being afraid to because I can’t access it with my screen reader. I also don’t want to have to download an app and wonder if I can use it.” – Nesma, Maryland 

“I’d like to see that they passed legislation that makes ADA federally funded because currently it’s only federally mandated. I think that if the states were allotted more money for implementation, it would be easier for them to renovate buildings so that they are more accommodating.” – Ayanda, West Virginia 

“I would like to see a clear, concise, and accessible procedure for addressing and escalating ADA issues. Accountability at all levels of government for following the ADA. Consequences for entities who violate the ADA. More legal organizations who take ADA cases brought by individuals. An understanding that folks who raise ADA-related concerns aren’t just entitled complainers, but real people experiencing genuine barriers while trying to go about their everyday lives.” – Allison, Arizona 

Explore More Reflections 

Many more community members shared their stories. To preserve and share all of these powerful reflections, we launched stories.benetech.org, a new site dedicated to highlighting the perspectives of our users. There you can find reflections on the ADA 30th anniversary, as well as Books Beloved reflections that highlight the impact that books have on a person’s life, career, and outlook. 

Search by name or keyword to find perspectives on the issues that you are curious about. From voting rights to healthcare, education, employment, and technology, you will find reflections of our community of software users, partners, and advisors, written in their own words. 

Help us Celebrate ADA 32!  

How has the ADA impacted your life or the life of your loved ones? What do you see as the future of disability rights? Let us know in the comments, and you could be featured in an upcoming blog. 

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