July 26th marks the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Former president George Bush signed the Act into Law and thereby transformed the lives of those within the disability community as well as the friends and family members of persons with a disability. The ADA is a federal civil rights law that protects the rights and all aspects of life for the disabled community – including in public and at work.
Even before the ADA was signed into Law, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) made efforts to increase inclusion for those with disabilities. CLP began circulating braille books in 1911. When the Pratt-Smoot Act passed in 1931, CLP was one of the original thirteen libraries that participated nationwide by circulating braille and talking books for those unable to use standard print materials. Today, Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has grown to serve all of Pennsylvania with audiobooks, playback equipment, audio described DVDs, and large print materials.
If you’d like to see how the City of Pittsburgh as a whole made efforts to increase access and inclusion, a timeline has been provided by the FISA Foundation.
However, despite the implementation of the ADA and all the efforts that came before it, there are still many inequalities that need to be addressed. For example, only about 34% of Pennsylvanians with disabilities are employed, as opposed to a national employment rate of 76% for those without disabilities. The disabled community accounts for 19% of the U.S. population – that’s larger than any nationally recognized minority group.
If you’d like more information about the ADA and the struggles that led up to it, here are some things for your reading list.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
DB 31035 / BR 08232
Text of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement by Fred Pelka
Twentieth-century disability activists describe their political struggles for basic human rights, which led to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. They discuss landmark campaigns, including the demand for a deaf president at Gallaudet University and ADAPT’s struggle for accessible public transit. 2012.