Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband released the following statement on the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
“With the passage of the ADA, our nation committed itself to a clear and comprehensive mandate: the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities. As President George H.W. Bush said just before he signed the ADA into law, “with today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.”
Today, on the thirtieth anniversary of this historic law, we commemorate the many ways that the ADA has transformed our society — by replacing exclusion with access, segregation with integration, and limitations with self-determination. The ADA has advanced the promise of the American dream, ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy the same opportunity as all Americans to participate in everything this great nation has to offer.
Since the passage of the ADA, the Civil Rights Division has been at the forefront of enforcing its protections and vindicating the rights of people with disabilities across this country. The division works day in and day out to further the goals of the ADA — through mediation, technical assistance, outreach, and enforcement.
Since 2017, the department has entered into more than 200 agreements to further accessibility for people with disabilities. From ensuring equal employment opportunities to ensuring equal access to polling places; from ensuring inclusive child care and schools to ensuring nondiscriminatory health care — the breadth of the division’s work reflects the remarkable breadth of the statute itself.
Indeed, the department’s work enforcing the ADA touches every aspect of American life. For instance, in the area of employment, the department works to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to pursue their career goals. In the housing sphere, the department strives to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to access housing, including through its through its work to ensure the accessibility of rental offices and its challenges to discriminatory zoning laws.
With respect to education, the department’s enforcement efforts span from early learning centers through postsecondary programs to ensure that the doors of educational opportunity are fully open to students with disabilities. And the department’s ADA Voting Initiative helps voters with disabilities to exercise one of their most fundamental rights — to cast their ballot on the same terms and with the same level of independence and privacy as voters without disabilities. Through this initiative, the department has surveyed more than 2,000 polling places and increased polling place accessibility in more than 50 jurisdictions.
The department also recognizes that equal access to medical providers like doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and hospitals is vital to ensuring the wellbeing of people with disabilities. The department’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative ensures that people with disabilities are able to access health care, without physical, attitudinal, or communication barriers. And recognizing that transportation serves as a gateway to participation in all aspects of community life, the department continues to vigorously enforce the ADA’s guarantees of increased access to public and private transportation.
Finally, the department’s efforts to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. to redress the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities go to the heart of the ADA’s promises. Through the department’s Olmstead work, more than 50,000 individuals with disabilities now have opportunities to live and work in their communities, alongside their neighbors.
The department is proud to play a leading role in safeguarding the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. Yet, even as we celebrate the last 30 years’ progress, we know that our work is not done and that barriers to equal opportunity remain. We recommit to our work of making the promise of the ADA a reality, enabling all Americans with disabilities to achieve their dreams and reach their full potential. On this anniversary, we remember the words of President George H.W. Bush, who explained the ADA’s importance saying:
“Our success with this act proves that we are keeping faith with the spirit of our courageous forefathers who wrote in the Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.’ . . . Today’s legislation brings us closer to that day when no Americans will ever again be deprived of their basic guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”