Issue 79 • Week of July 23, 2023

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law 33 years ago this week for the one in four adults who have to overcome significant challenges on a daily basis. Every once in a while the law resurfaces in headlines, but most people forget what citizens had to do in order to ensure its passage: disabled activists literally crawled up the stairs of Congress to demand civil rights and reasonable accommodations at their workplaces.

The ADA passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (Senate: 91-6, House: 377-28) to finally provide legal protections against discrimination. The legislation was not perfect, but most would agree life is better now. The most noticeable changes in our country to come as a result were more ramps, elevators, braille, and audible alerts as well as accessible bathrooms and parking spots.

However, recent studies indicate that the US has fallen far short of its promise: government agencies paid for by our tax dollars are less likely than the private sector to accommodate requests. Twice as many disabled remain unemployed. And people still often have to sue in order to defend their freedom of movement to be as self-sufficient as possible.

How can we design accessibility as central to everything we do?

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