Celebrating 31 Years of the ADA

This is crazy to think about, but less than 40 years ago, people with disabilities didn’t really have rights in America. That’s because the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which gave a lot of rights to workers with disabilities and people with disabilities in general when it comes to accommodations, was only made 31 years ago in 1990.

2008 Amendments to ADA

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, Congress thought that the Supreme Court would interpret the new act the same way they had interpreted the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its definition of disability. A key difference between the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act is that the Rehabilitation Act of 1973  prohibits disability discrimination in programs conducted by federal agencies, in programs receiving federal financial assistance, in federal employment and in the employment practices of federal contractors, while the Americans with Disabilities Act also applies to private employers. 

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court had several rulings that actually made it harder for people to say that they had a disability and needed appropriate accommodations. To their credit, the lawmakers in Congress realized their mistake and came together to pass the 2008 amendment. The major benefit of the 2008 amendment did help clarify and get the proper accommodations they need so that they can be in a position to succeed in society. It was later amended in 2008 because there were so many challenges to what was considered a disability. 

Stigma Surrounding Mental and Physical Disabilities

Despite those changes, there’s still a heavy stigma against people with disabilities. And there are plenty of myths about employees with disabilities that continue to float around workplaces. This is not limited to people with physical disabilities, but people with mental disabilities too. People assume that people with physical disabilities are not able to do things that they actually would be able to do if they were given the proper accommodations. People with mental disabilities are asked to not talk about it so that the employer or whoever else you’re talking to, doesn’t have to be burdened with the fact of having to confront maybe some of their own insecurities about people with disabilities. 

What’s Next?

July 2021 marks the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act, let’s all do better to help sympathize and understand people with disabilities. We don’t have to have a disability to be able to understand and sympathize with people. And I think doing so will help us all in the long run.

James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discrimination and throughout the State of Ohio.