Today, we are lucky to take wheelchair-accessible parking spots and ramps for granted. We probably don’t think twice when we see braille on a sign in an office building, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Each year, July 26 marks the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Signed into law on this day by then-President George H.W. Bush, this landmark act promotes equal opportunities for people with disabilities with its mission to “make it possible for everyone with a disability to live a life of freedom and equality.”
Based on a 1986 assessment of the federal laws and programming that affect those with disabilities, the ADA is similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in that it protects against discrimination. It also requires that public places such as restaurants, hotels, parks, and retail stores make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
Worldwide, over one billion people live with a disability. With determination, we can strive for equality for all. Indeed, the ADA was signed into law after a group of people living with disabilities banded together to make a difference in their day-to-day lives. Inspired by the activism of Ed Roberts, who is known as the father of the disabilities rights movement and was the first student to attend the University of California, Berkeley in a wheelchair in 1962, the movement picked up speed and enthusiastic support from people of all abilities.
This month, take a moment to give thanks to all those who paved the road (literally and figuratively!) for equality. And be one of those people yourself—small acts can become big ones over time. If you notice a business that pays extra attention to accessibility, say thank you. And when interacting with someone with a disability, remember that it’s always okay to ask if someone wants a hand, but it’s also essential to respect someone if they say no. Don’t assume they need help without first asking. Everyone plays a role in an inclusive community.