Americans With Disabilities Act History

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Americans with Disabilities Act History

Americans with Disabilities Act Historical Background

The struggle for equality during the 1950s and 1960s by African Americans, known as the civil rights movement, raised public awareness of discrimination in the United States. This movement inspired activism by other groups, including women and people with disabilities, that traditionally had been treated unfairly. However, the first legislation that resulted from the civil rights movement, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, applied only to people who were discriminated against on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. At that time, discrimination against people with disabilities remained legally acceptable.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first federal legislation protecting employment rights for people with disabilities. However, that act applied only to businesses that received federal financial assistance. The vast majority of private employers and businesses, as well as most local governments, were not required to comply. The limited applicability of the act, along with inconsistent implementation of its requirements, spurred people with disabilities to seek greater legal protection of their civil rights.

From the mid-1970s to the late 1980s the rights of people with disabilities were greatly strengthened in some areas. Congress adopted several laws regarding accessibility to education, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975, which guaranteed a public education to children with a broad range of disabilities. However, none of the laws passed during this time dealt with the problem of discrimination against people with disabilities in the critical areas of employment, access to governmental services, and public accommodations.

The ADA was first introduced in Congress in mid-1988, but Congress did not adopt the law during that session. The bill was strongly opposed by many corporate interests, who feared compliance would be costly. Others argued that the legislation was not needed or was unenforceable. When the bill was reintroduced in the following congressional session, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed it by overwhelming majorities. The turnaround was due to support by a vast coalition of organizations representing people with disabilities. These organizations launched an intensive campaign to change legislators' votes, culminating in March 1990 with a massive demonstration at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. President George Bush signed the act into law on July 26, 1990. (1)

In this Section: Americans with Disabilities Act, Americans with Disabilities Act Provisions, Americans with Disabilities Act: Employment, Americans with Disabilities Act: Public Services, Americans with Disabilities Act: Public Accommodation, Americans with Disabilities Act: Telecommunications, Americans with Disabilities Act History and Americans with Disabilities Act Supreme Court Decisions.


Notes and References

  1. Encarta Online Encyclopedia

See Also

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