Twenty-nine years ago, America took one step closer to making all Americans truly equal. The passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 was a landmark moment in US history. It has been the commander of several Supreme Court decisions, protecting millions of Americans living with disabilities from discrimination. The ADA’s purpose is to give people with disabilities the same opportunities as those without disabilities.
“The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else…It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications” (ADATA.org).
Amendments to the ADA
Rights for Americans with disabilities continued trekking forward in 2008 when George W. Bush, who’s father George H.W. Bush originally signed the ADA, broadened the once narrow definition of “disability” with the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). The act changed the Supreme Court’s narrow interpretation of disability to “provide broad protection from discrimination.”
Showing Progress Toward Equality
The ADA took four years from conception to being passed by the House. It took another three for all four of the Titles to be issued and take effect. The idea for the ADA came from a 1986 report given by the National Council on the Handicapped (now the National Council on Disability). The report, titled “Toward Independence,” outlined legislative recommendations for a “comprehensive equal opportunity law.” “On the Threshold of Independence” soon followed in 1988 as a report on progress since “Toward Independence.” Senators Harkin and Durrenberger and Representatives Coelho and Fish in the 101st Congress then introduced a revised act. In 1989, the Senate passed the ADA. A year later, President George H.W. Bush signed the act.
Court Cases Influenced by the ADA
Fast forward nine years after its passing, the Supreme Court decided in Olmstead v. L.C. that “unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination and held that services must be provided in integrated, community-based settings when possible” (ADATA.org). This decision made it possible for people with disabilities to live in a community of their choosing rather than forced to live in an institution. Since taking effect, the Supreme Court uses the ADA to decide cases regarding discrimination involving people with disabilities.
How the ADA Influences Home For Life Advantage
Because of the ADA, Home for Life uses the guidelines laid out in the act to create accessible homes and businesses. Commercial establishments, such as businesses and restaurants, should comply with ADA building codes. On the other hand, residential homes do not have to abide by the ADA; however, we still use them as a guideline in our builds.
Community Influence of the ADA
Some towns are beginning to mandate Universal Design building standards as a rule so homes are visitable by anyone, regardless of ability level. Although you may not need an accessible-designed home, you may have a friend or neighbor that wants to visit you. Yet, they are unable to navigate your home because it is not accessible to them. Bolingbrook is a community that understands this need and requires homeowners to institute Universal Design building compliance. Universal Design uses concepts based on ADA building codes to create visitable homes — no matter if you have a disability or not.
Equality for People with Disabilities
The purpose of the ADA is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and to ensure they have the same opportunities and experiences as people without disabilities. Creating a home that can be visited or lived in by people with varying degrees of ability is essential to sustaining equality. Looking toward the future, we hope that more communities will recognize the need for visitable homes and require all new builds to include Universal Design concepts.