29th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Celebrate the ADA 29 (1990-2019) Americans with Disabilities Act - July 26, 2019

29 years ago today, then President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the years right after, the basic structure of the ADA became as familiar to people with disabilities as the backs of our own hands. But nearly 30 years after the law passed, it’s probably a good idea to review what’s actually in it. The Americans with Disabilities Act includes three main sections or “Titles”:

Title I: Employment

* Makes it illegal to deny employment and job benefits because of disability, as long as the disabled person is otherwise able to perform the essential functions of the job.

* Requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable, individual accommodations to disabled employees to enable them to do their jobs.

Title II: State & Local Government

* Requires state and local governments at all levels to make all of their services and programs accessible and provide equal service to people with disabilities.

* Program accessibility can include a combination of physical accessibility and individual supports and modifications to make each program as a whole generally accessible.

Title III: Public Accommodations

* Businesses and organizations that provide goods and services to the public must provide equal service to customers with disabilities.

* Businesses and organizations must make their public facilities physically accessible for all, and provide reasonable individual accommodations as needed to ensure individuals are able to get equal service.

* Accessibility is defined by the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, a set of specific physical standards to ensure a base level of accessibility in all types of facilities.

There is also a Title IV that deals with specific telecommunication services, like TV captioning and telephone relay systems for the deaf. The ADA also set ambitious long-term goals of making all kinds of transportation accessible, including buses and trains. Note that the ADA was designed to complement already existing disability rights laws such as:

For more information on the ADA, try these links:

If you have questions about disability rights and accessibility, you can always call us at the North Country Center for Independence at 518-563-9058.

Three Links This Week: ADA Anniversary

Closeup picture of a monthly calendar, focused on a single week

Links to three articles shared in this week’s NCCI social media. This week, it’s three videos, all related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed 28 years ago this Thursday, July 26.

You can visit NCCI on Facebook and Twitter at the following links:

This week - July 21-26, 2018:

1. Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities | ADA 25th Anniversary

Video made thee years ago, on the origins of the ADA and the idea behind it.

2. Drunk History - Judy Heumann Fights for People with Disabilities

A humorous but accurate look at the biggest disability activism effort before the ADA: the 504 Protests.

3. Jennifer Keelan | The Capitol Crawl

One of the key moments in the movement to pass the ADA.

Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018

As you may have seen in the news this week, Stephen Hawking, arguably the most famous and admired theoretical physicist in the world, died Tuesday.

Professionally, he is known as a physicist comparable to Albert Einstein. He held the same Mathematics chair at the University of Cambridge as Sir Isaac Newton. He was known especially for ground breaking theories about black holes and the nature of time and space. And in 1988 he published a best-selling book about these subjects, A Brief History of Time. These achievements alone would have warranted coverage of Hawking’s death on the evening news and the top of our internet news feeds.

The reason we in the disability community have taken such note of Stephen Hawking’s passing is that he was also one of the most famous disabled people in the world. Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, (known as motor neuron disease in the United Kingdom), when he was still an undergraduate. He was told he had just a few years to live, but he lived to the age of 76. For much of his life and professional career, he was almost completely paralyzed, and used an electric wheelchair and speech synthesizer he controlled with tiny head movements. For decades, his wheelchair and synthesizer voice became iconic, both in his professional field and in popular culture. (See the clips below of some of Prof. Hawking’s appearances on TV shows).

Already there is some discussion about how Prof. Hawking’s death and life is being covered. Is there too much emphasis on his disability, or not enough? Was his disability a tragic impediment he overcame, or an important part of the man he became? Was he a disability advocate, or just a renowned physicist who just happened to have a disability?

Fortunately, since tackling deep questions was Prof. Hawking’s speciality, he would probably be happy to see us wrestle with what his life meant to all of us.

Here are some articles with more information and perspective on Stephen Hawking and the impact of his life:

Ian Sample, The Guardian - March 14, 2018

BBC - March 14, 2018

Do You Actually Know Why Stephen Hawking Was Famous?
Tanya Basu, Daily Beast - March 14, 2018

James Gallagher, BBC - March 14, 2018

Alex Barasch, Slate - March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, United Nations Human Development Report - 2018

Alia E. Dastagir, USA Today - March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, Wheelchairs, Death, and Freedom
Karen Hitzelberger, Claiming Crip - March 15, 2018

Health Care Updates

Before finishing the series of questions on health care and the disability community, let's take a look at two related events that happened yesterday, June 22, 2017:

1. An initial Senate version of the American Health Care Act ... which is being called by the Senate the Better Care Reconciliation Act, (BCRA) ... was released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office. Here are three breakdowns of what's in the Senate bill at this point.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act: the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, explained
Sarah Kliff, Vox.com - June 22, 2017

Here is a chart from the Huffington Post comparing the Affordable Care Act, (Obamacare), the American Health Care Act, and the Better Care Reconciliation Act:

The New York Times also has a comparison chart, showing which provisions of Obamacare would be kept, eliminated, or changed under the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act:

How Senate Republicans Plan to Dismantle Obamacare
Haeyoun Park and Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times - June 22, 2017

2. Almost the moment Sen. McConnell's office released the Senate bill, the disability rights organization ADAPT demonstrated against it at McConnell's office. Protesters were literally hauled away by police, and the scene was broadcast on both local and national news. In fact, later that evening, Rachel Maddow spent over 20 minutes on the protest and the reasons and history behind it ... including giving a rare retelling, to a mainstream audience, of ADAPT's history and the history of disability rights in America. Here's the segment. It's well worth watching and sharing (Click below to start the video):

A Bit Of Disability History

This past weekend was the 27th anniversary of a pivotal moment in the history of disability rights ... The "Capitol Crawl" urging Congress to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 1990, it was still unusual for such a large public demonstration for disability rights to take place and make the news. On the other hand, a demonstration this impressive would probably be quite noticeable even today.

By the way, here's an interview with one of the participants, years later.


Ed Roberts Day

Screen shot of the Google home page, featuring cartoon picture of Ed Roberts, a bearded man in an electric wheelchair and using a breathing machine.

January 23 is Ed Robert's Day, the birthday of the founder of the Independent Living Center movement, Ed Roberts. He would have been 78 today. In honor of this, Google's home page "doodle" features Ed Roberts,  and includes a link to a terrific article by the American Association of People with Disabilities on the history of the disability rights movement. Click the link to read the article. It includes some great stories and amazing historical photos. Not a lot of people know this rich, fascinating history, so do share with your family and friends!