The Arc Celebrates 30th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act

July 26 marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The Arc is proud of our role in protecting the rights of people with disabilities, including as a significant player in the passage of the ADA. Consistent with our work for decades on policy development and legal efforts on key issues including deinstitutionalization, transforming state service systems, and ensuring that people with I/DD have access to education and life in the community, The Arc was committed to advancing the bill creating a national mandate for the elimination of discrimination on the basis of disability. From educating Congress and the public on the discrimination faced by people with disabilities and their families, helping to organize the grassroots, and supporting Congressional hearings and promotion on the Hill, The Arc was actively engaged in the fight for the ADA. State and local chapters of The Arc were integral to the movement. Through the tenacious advocacy of The Arc with our allies across the disability community, the bill passed with broad bipartisan support.

Read The Arc’s statements:

Senators to Hold Events in Recognition of ADA 30th Anniversary

This week, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) will hold two events in recognition of the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Details are as follows:

Honoring the Fight: 30 Years of the ADA: July 22, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. ET

  • The panelists will reflect on the last 30 years of the ADA and the goals that were and still are present for the disability community. Panelists include:
    • Senator Tom Harkin, (D-IA) 40 year member of Congress and Senate author of the ADA
    • Governor Tom Ridge, (R-PA) Current Chair of the National Organization on Disability, former Governor of Pennsylvania, and First Secretary of Homeland Security
    • Claudia Gordon, Disability Rights Attorney and Advocate, Former Obama Administration Appointee
    • Elena Hung, Executive Director and Co-founder, Little Lobbyists
    • Rebecca Cokley, Director, Disability Justice Initiative, Center for American Progress
    • Maria Town, Moderator, President and CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities

Continuing the Fight: Ensuring the ADA Works for Everyone: July 24, 1:00 -2:00 p.m. ET

  • The next 30 years and beyond of the ADA will shine a spotlight on intersectional identities as we hear from panelists about what’s next for the disability community. Panelists include:
    • Jeiri Flores, Advocacy Discipline Coordinator, University of Rochester LEND
    • Conchita Hernandez Legorreta, Maryland Statewide Blind and Low Vision Specialist
    • Catherine Lhamon, Moderator, Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

CART and American Sign Language will be provided.

CCD to Hold Briefing Recognizing 30th Anniversary of ADA

On July 23 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) will hold a briefing titled “The ADA at 30: A Vision for a Future With Full Inclusion and Equity.” Heather Ansley, Chair of CCD will provide opening remarks. Liz Weintraub, Senior Advocacy Specialist at Association of University Centers on Disabilities will serve as moderator. Panelists include:

  • Vanita Gupta, President and CEO, Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights
  • Germán Parodi, Co-Executive Director, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies
  • Maria Town, CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Monique Dixon, Deputy Director of Policy and Director of State Advocacy, NAACP Legal Defense Fund

The briefing focuses on the intersection of disability and racial equity and the aim of ensuring that the ADA’s goals of full participation, equal opportunity, independent living and economic self-sufficiency can become a reality for all people with disabilities, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Presented in collaboration with Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Don Young (R-AK), co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Disabilities caucus; Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Leader; Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA); Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging; Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL); and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment.

Tax/Rights: Representatives Re-Introduce Bill to Improve ADA Compliance for 29th Anniversary

Last week, in conjunction with the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Representatives Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Bob Casey (D-PA) re-introduced the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act (H.R.4045/S.2290). This bill will double the Disabled Access Credit (DAC) and increase the number of businesses eligible for it. The DAC is a tax credit for small businesses that make renovations to make their facilities accessible. Additionally, the bill increases funding for the voluntary ADA Mediation Program in the Department of Justice and requires data collection and reporting on the types of calls received by the ADA Information Line.

Education: Senators Introduce Bill to Improve Access to Accommodations in College

On May 22, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act (S.1585). This bill would require institutions of higher education to accept a student’s individualized education plan (IEP), 504 plan, or prior evaluation as sufficient proof of disability. Additionally, it requires institutions to provide transparent information regarding the process of determining eligibility for disability services and to disseminate the information in an accessible format. It also requires institutions to report information on the number of students with disabilities served, their outcomes, and the accommodations provided. The Arc supports this legislation.

Rights – President Trump Issues Proclamation Commemorating ADA Anniversary

On July 25, President Trump issued a proclamation commemorating the 28th Anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is the primary civil rights law for people with disabilities. It passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. Read the statement here.

Rights – House Committee Approves Bill Limiting Enforcement of Americans with Disabilities Act

On September 7, the House Judiciary Committee approved the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R.620) by a vote of 15-9. This bill prevents lawsuits over architectural barriers violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless an individual provides “specific enough” notice and allows 120 days for a business to correct that barrier. The bill was introduced on the belief that the ADA has led to “frivolous lawsuits” where plaintiffs and attorneys intentionally seek barriers in order to extract funds. However, the ADA does not allow courts to award monetary damages to plaintiffs. Where those damages are available, it is through state law. Furthermore, there are already laws on the books that allow punishment of attorneys who represent clients in frivolous lawsuits. This bill effectively eliminates incentives for businesses to comply with federal law until 120 days after a person with a disability asks them to do so. See this fact sheet from Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund for more information.

Education/Rights – Supreme Court Unanimously Rules in Favor of Student in Disability Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the case of Ehlena Fry, a student with cerebral palsy, who sought to use a service dog in school for tasks such as “retrieving dropped items, helping her balance when she uses her walker, opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights, and helping her take off her coat, [and] helping her transfer to and from the toilet.” The school refused to allow the service dog, arguing that a human aide was sufficient. Her parents sued the school district for violating her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. A federal district court had dismissed the case on the basis that the parents must exhaust the administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) before seeking relief under the ADA and Section 504 and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The Supreme Court, in an 8-0 decision in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, ruled that a student does not need to exhaust the IDEA’s administrative process if the claim is not is not related to the adequacy of his/her education. Read The Arc’s statement on the ruling here.

Department of Justice Releases Report on Service Animals and the ADA

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a technical assistance document, Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. The document includes frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) that protect the rights of individuals and their service animals. As noted by the DOJ, it is as a follow-up to the DOJ’s 2011 guidance on Service Animals and the Revised ADA Requirements, and should be read in conjunction with the 2011 document.

White House Seeks Nominations for Champions of Change

The White House is seeking nominations for “Champions of Change for Disability Advocacy Across Generations”.  This award recognizes individuals who have spent many years advocating for disability rights as well as dedicated young self-advocates.  This event coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Nominations are due midnight Thursday, June 18.  Nominate an individual and select “Americans with Disabilities Act” as the Theme of Service.