The Americans with Disabilities Act
• First federal civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination based on disability status.
• Signed into law July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush.
• Designed to remove barriers to employment, public facilities and transportation for those with disabilities.
• It established enforceable legal remedies when the ADA is violated.
• For more information on the ADA, visit www.ada.gov.
Every day, Lawrence High School teacher Heidi Adams sees the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“As an educator it means all kids are included, no matter what,” said Adams, who joined about 150 people in South Park on Monday for a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the act, signed into law on July 26, 1990. Ensuring that schools enforce the act is a “huge part of my job,” Adams said.
The protections the act guarantees — accessible public accommodations, employment equality and freedom from discrimination — play an important role in removing barriers for those with disabilities.
Examples of the progress made in the past 20 years were evident at the event, which included raffles and live music. Various speakers in wheelchairs easily glided up to, and down from, the stage with the assistance of a ramp. Modified vans, which utilized reserved parking spaces, allowed others easy access to the event.
But the work continues, said Dot Nary, a Kansas University doctoral student and disability-rights advocate.
“You can gain rights through legislation, but you can lose them,” she said. “We have to work to make sure the ADA stays strong.”
Nary pointed out that with an aging population, the community will see a rise in people with disabilities, and it’s important to continue building an “accessible community,” she said.
She was encouraged by the strong turnout for the event, and said everyone is responsible for protecting the rights of those with disabilities.
“The community is the enforcer,” she said.