The proposed settlement, which is subject to approval by a federal judge, resolves prosecutors’ claims that Bank of America had a policy of denying mortgage loans and home equity loans to adults who had legal guardianships or conservatorships.
Judy Heumann remembers the day she went to register for kindergarten in 1952. She’d gotten dressed up and her mother had pulled her wheelchair up a flight of stairs before the principal intervened. Her disability, he said, meant she was not allowed to attend the school. Heumann had polio as a child, and it left her legs paralyzed and limited her use of her hands and arms. Throughout her time in the educational system, and after she graduated and became a teacher and activist, she had to fight for access at every turn.
“It’s totally different today,” she says. That’s thanks in large part to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights legislation that was signed 30 years ago this month, on July 26, 1990. Under that transformative law, schools and workplaces are now required to have ramps, elevators, designated parking spots and curb cuts, and to provide accommodations for people with a range of disabilities, including those who are blind or deaf.
Taking inspiration and legal concepts from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA was designed to protect people with disabilities against discrimination and to ensure that they can participate fully in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications. The results today are powerful: most public buses have lifts for wheelchairs; disabled children attend school alongside their nondisabled peers; and employers are generally aware that people with disabilities have civil rights they cannot violate.
But if the 61 million Americans with disabilities are now less likely to confront the same problems that Heumann did decades ago, their fight for true equality is far from over. “The ADA is ultimately a promise that has been tremendously impactful in some areas and has yet to be fulfilled in other areas,” says Ari Ne’eman, a senior research associate at the Harvard Law School Project on Disability and the co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Disability activists have transformed workplaces in America and today, people with and without disabilities benefit.
The Covid-19 pandemic has trained a spotlight on the scope and effectiveness of the federal civil rights law that protects people with disabilities, as jobless rates increase for the underrepresented workforce.
In the three decades since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, courts have weighed in on which workers are shielded from discrimination under the law and when they must receive reasonable accommodations. The spread of the coronavirus has tested those issues while also raising new legal questions for essential workers and dilemmas for employers facing return-to-work plans.
Debates have circled around whether Covid-19 or mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic are disabilities, and whether telework is a reasonable disability accommodation. Courts have also ruled in ways that veered from U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance, including whether workers who are at risk of contracting a disease, like Covid-19, should receive disability protections.
As these questions remain, only about 30 percent of disabled Americans participate in the workforce, and the pandemic is shrinking the labor market for the roughly 30 million of them who perform essential jobs in food service, hospitality, and retail. During the peak of the pandemic-induced job losses, 18.9% of disabled Americans were unemployed, compared to 14.3% of the rest of the population. In June, the jobless rate for the disabled fell to 16.5%, while the rate for everyone else dropped to 11%, signaling a faster recovery for the general population.
Disability discrimination charges filed with the EEOC have risen steadily since 2002, according agency statistics. The ADA, although it removes barriers to employment, doesn’t require employers to hire people with disabilities, said Margaret Nygren, executive director of American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
“People with disabilities have been able to enjoy community living, to shop and bank and be on the street. Employment still is a barrier and hasn’t been able to break through,” Nygren said. “The solution is not a curb cut or putting something in Braille. It takes intentionality to find good candidates whether they have a disability or not.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act protects people with disabilities against discrimination in several areas, including employment, education, recreation, transportation and housing. The CDC recognizes the ADA as an opportunity to include people with disabilities in federal efforts regarding public health and health care, according to a press release.
Just eight per cent of businesses regularly include people with disabilities in their marketing and communications, despite 88 per cent claiming that disability inclusion is important to their business strategy, according to research from The Valuable 500, a global movement created to promote disability inclusion.
The research, released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Day on Sunday 26 July, found that 35 per cent of companies are now more aware than ever of the needs of people with disabilities – but 15 per cent have had to put a halt to their efforts around disability inclusion due to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
One in four adults in the U.S. are living with a disability, but you wouldn't know it given the lack of representation in the workforce, Hollywood, and media coverage. On the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, Voices of Disability celebrates the real stories — not the stigmas or stereotypes — of this dynamic and vibrant community of individuals.The following story was written by Rebecca Cokley, the Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress and a lifelong disability rights activist.