The Americans With Disabilities Act Turns 30

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. In sum, the ADA is a federal law, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq, that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in various areas, including in employment (Title I), public entities and public transportation (Title II), and places of public accommodation (Title III).

In 2008, the ADA was amended (via the ADA Amendments Act of 2008), in a manner strengthening the Act’s protections – by, for example, making it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that s/he has a “disability” within the meaning of the ADA. These changes became effective as of January 1, 2009.

The legislation’s expressed Purpose is:

(1) to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

(2) to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

(3) to ensure that the Federal Government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this chapter on behalf of individuals with disabilities; and

(4) to invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day ­to­ day by people with disabilities.

42 U.S.C. § 12101(b).

The ADA has, over the years, become an integral part of the fabric of federal civil rights law.

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