Happy Anniversary to the Americans with Disabilities Act!

On July 26, 1990, thirty-two years ago today, the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) was enacted. Heralded as the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities, the ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in critical areas including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services.

On July 26 ,1992, Title 1 of the ADA became effective, prohibiting employers with 25 or more employees from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities.

On July 26, 1994, Title 1 became applicable to employers with 15 or more employees.

To commemorate the passage of the ADA, and in honor of Disability Pride Month, which has been celebrated every July since the ADA was enacted in 1990, we reprint below the “Findings and Purposes” section of this landmark civil rights statute:

Findings and Purposes

(a) 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.

(b) Purpose. It is the purpose of this chapter-

(1) to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

(2) to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

(3) to ensure that the Federal Government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this chapter on behalf of individuals with disabilities; and

(4) to invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day ­to­ day by people with disabilities.

Deena R. MerlenThis article is intended as a general discussion of these issues only and is not to be considered legal advice or relied upon. For more information, please contact RPJ Partner Deena R. Merlen who counsels clients in areas of intellectual property, employment and labor law, media and entertainment, general business law, commercial transactions and dispute resolution. Ms. Merlen is admitted to practice law in Connecticut and New York.