It was a sunny day in Washington, DC on July 26th, 1990. The nice weather allowed for an outdoor ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. It was there and then that President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There were three thousand people attending the ceremony that literally opened the doors to buildings, busses and trains. Additionally, the ADA established the rights of the then 43 million Americans with disabilities to hold jobs, seek education, participate in government and in general be informed about matters that related to them.
During the ceremony President Bush remarked that enacting the ADA was “another ‘Independence Day,’ one that is long overdue.”
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In three decade’s time we have certainly come a long way, but there is still much to be done. In an ever-changing world, new technologies and those just over the horizon must adhere to the spirit of the ADA. While the Netflix video streaming service is ubiquitous today, it wasn’t until 2014 that Netflix included closed captioning as part of the service. The closed captioning came about as the result of a 2012 lawsuit brought by a hearing-impaired viewer in Massachusetts.
Bob Lister is an educator in New Hampshire who has been involved with SONH since 1975. He was a student in Keene at the time. When he began his teaching career in Portsmouth in 1976 he brought Special Olympics with him to the Port City. While Lister refers to himself as a “self-proclaimed dinosaur” with SONH, Mary Conroy, President and CEO of Special Olympics New Hampshire notes that “Bob’s work has positively impacted the course of life for thousands of people with intellectual disabilities.”
Lister says that “the major impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act over the last 30 years has been increased accessibility in schools, sports, the community and the workplace.” When asked about what still needs to be done, Lister suggests “We need to celebrate and build on the successes of accessibility. We also need more education about disabilities and powerful leadership at all levels that promotes acceptance and inclusion.”