Celebrating Anniversaries: Americans with Disabilities Act

Guest Contributor
Guest Contributor July 31, 2015

Celebrating Anniversaries: Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Conversations and healthy debate about issues facing our industry and the health care system are critical to addressing some of today’s challenges and opportunities. The Catalyst welcomes guest contributors including patients, stakeholders, innovators and others to share their perspectives and point of view. Like in our Conversations series, views represented here may not be those of PhRMA, though they are no less key to a healthy dialogue on issues in health care today. 

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, we’re pleased to host a guest blog from Katy Beh Neas, executive vice president, public affairs for Easter Seals.


Last weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  This landmark civil rights law outlaws discrimination on the basis of disability in the areas of employment, services provided by state and local governments, public accommodations like restaurants and movie theaters, transportation and telecommunications.

The words and spirit of the ADA are awesome. If you’ve never taken a look at the law, I would encourage you to do so. Here is just a small section – the findings:

The Congress finds that

(1) physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person's right to fully participate in all aspects of society, yet many people with physical or mental disabilities have been precluded from doing so because of discrimination; others who have a record of a disability or are regarded as having a disability also have been subjected to discrimination;

(2) historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem;

(3) discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services;

(4) unlike individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of disability have often had no legal recourse to redress such discrimination;

(5) individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers, overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities;

(6) census data, national polls, and other studies have documented that people with disabilities, as a group, occupy an inferior status in our society, and are severely disadvantaged socially, vocationally, economically, and educationally;

(7) the Nation's proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals; and

(8) the continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and nonproductivity.

The ADA is a powerful civil rights law. But the values behind it: quality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency – are true American values. The ADA was adopted with huge bipartisan majorities in the Congress. These votes, 91-3 in the Senate and 377-27 in the House, were the result of people with disabilities, their families, advocates, neighbors, employers, clergy and employers, all coming together with a united voice that discrimination on the basis of disability was wrong and should be illegal. As we look to the next 25 years, I hope these lessons of unity can bring our country to new heights.