Guest blogger Judy Scott is a retired employee of the American Foundation for the Blind.
In honor of the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, Judy recounts being present on the White House lawn as the ADA was signed into law.
My White House Experience at the ADA Signing
Have you ever had an experience that you could not believe was real? I had such an experience on July 26, 1990 when I was on the White House lawn for the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act by President George H. W. Bush. Also participating in the signing ceremony was fellow Texan Justin W. Dart, who was instrumental in helping to spearhead the multi-year effort to make this day a reality.
I found myself standing next to Elizabeth Dole, who was in awe of this moment as well. Also surrounding me were hundreds of other disability advocates and policy-makers who had a personal interest in this legislation and its signing into law. It was quite emotional for all of us to know that we could not be discriminated against because of a disability and that a law was being enacted to help enable us to live full, productive lives.
We all were experiencing “history in the making.” I have mementos from this eventful day on my office wall and recall almost daily the wonderful feeling I had from being part of such a momentous occasion for people with disabilities in this country.
The ADA and People with Vision Loss
Often, people ask me what the ADA did for people with vision loss. I remind them of some of the everyday changes brought about by this legislation that have had a positive impact on our lives, as well as the lives of all Americans, including
- improved signage in large print and braille
- facility doors that open automatically
- restaurant menus available in large print and braille.
In addition to these helpful everyday changes, the ADA also requires that
- employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with visual disabilities, including providing assistive technology in the workplace, providing written materials in an accessible format, and modifications to policies and procedures.
- transportation providers, including taxi cab fleets, rental car companies, and providers of public transportation, to allow people with visual disabilities to travel with their service animals.
- students with visual disabilities are guaranteed equal rights and access in the classroom, including the provision of learning materials in accessible formats and allowing for exam accommodations.
- public entities and private businesses design and maintain their websites in a way that is accessible to all people, including people with visual disabilities.
More about the ADA from VisionAware
The The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The ADA affects employment, housing, health care, education, public transportation, and parks and recreation.
The ADA and Employment of People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Title 1 of ADA makes it unlawful for any employer to discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee because of a disability in any aspect of employment. ADA Title I covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.
The ADA states that employers cannot prevent an individual from maintaining his or her job if the individual can perform the “essential functions” of that job. The employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations that allow the employee to perform his or her job effectively.
In some instances, the employer could state that the provision of workplace adjustments would be too costly, or provide “undue hardship” for his/her business or organization; in most situations, however, the employee can resolve these issues by learning about appropriate resources that will provide information and, in some cases, financial assistance.
The ADA and Transportation
The ADA gives people with disabilities many important rights in the area of transportation. If you have a disability, you are entitled to the same right to use and enjoy public transportation as people without disabilities. Here are some examples of what your local transit authority must do to make a transportation system accessible:
- Public buses need to be accessible to those in wheelchairs.
- Drivers need to announce their stops out loud to benefit visually impaired persons who ride the bus.
- Telephones, drinking fountains, and restrooms inside the terminal should also be accessible.
Learn More about Your Rights
The Federal Government’s Justice Department maintains a website with complete information about the ADA. The Department of Justice also provides a Guide to Disability Rights Laws that briefly explains your rights under the ADA and how to file a complaint if you feel you have been discriminated against on the basis of your visual impairment.
You can find more information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ADA Fact Sheet.
Talk to Us about the ADA
Tell us in the comments section how the ADA has benefited you, a family member, or a friend. We want to hear from you!