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The History of the ADA

The History of the ADA:
A Movement Perspective
by Arlene Mayerson
1992

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The history of the ADA did not begin on July 26, 1990 at the signing ceremony at the White House. It did not begin in 1988 when the first ADA was introduced in Congress. The ADA story began a long time ago in cities and towns throughout the United States when people with disabilities began to challenge societal barriers that excluded them from their communities, and when parents of children with disabilities began to fight against the exclusion and segregation of their children. It began with the establishment of local groups to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. It began with the establishment of the independent living movement which challenged the notion that people with disabilities needed to be institutionalized, and which fought for and provided services for people with disabilities to live in the community.
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From a legal perspective, a profound and historic shift in disability public policy occurred in 1973 with the passage of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.
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For the first time, the exclusion and segregation of people with disabilities was viewed as discrimination. Previously, it had been assumed that the problems faced by people with disabilities, such as unemployment and lack of education, were inevitable consequences of the physical or mental limitations imposed by the disability itself. Enactment of Section 504 evidenced Congress' recognition that the inferior social and economic status of people with disabilities was not a consequence of the disability itself, but instead was a result of societal barriers and prejudices.
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After Section 504 established the fundamental civil right of non-discrimination in 1973, the next step was to define what non-discrimination meant in the context of disability. ... The first task was to assure that the regulations provided meaningful anti-discrimination protections. It was not enough to remove policy barriers - it was imperative that the regulations mandated affirmative conduct to remove architectural and communication barriers and provide accommodations.
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... on May 4, 1977 the Section 504 regulations were issued. It is these regulations which form the basis of the ADA.
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During the 1980's, it also became clear to the disability community that it should play a very active role in Supreme Court litigation under Section 504.
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After the Davis decision it was clear that the Supreme Court needed to be educated on the issue of disability based discrimination and the role that it plays in people lives. Moreover, it was clear to the disability community that the focus of its efforts in any future Supreme Court litigation must be to reinforce the validity of the 1977 HEW regulations.
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The disability community began to educate people with disabilities about the ADA and to gather evidence to support the need for broad anti-discrimination protections. ... Justin Dart, Chair of the Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of People with Disabilities, traversed the country holding public hearings which were attended by thousands of people with disabilities, friends, and families documenting the injustice of discrimination in the lives of people with disabilities.
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The underlying principle of the ADA was to extend the basic civil rights protections extended to minorities and women to people with disabilities. The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited employment discrimination by the private sector against women and racial and ethnic minorities, and banned discrimination against minorities in public accommodations. Before the ADA, no federal law prohibited private sector discrimination against people with disabilities, absent a federal grant or contract.
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The ADA is based on a basic presumption that people with disabilities want to work and are capable of working, want to be members of their communities and are capable of being members of their communities and that exclusion and segregation cannot be tolerated. Accommodating a person with a disability is no longer a matter of charity but instead a basic issue of civil rights.
History of the ADA

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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