Many Millennials and later generations may not remember a time before the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) was passed. Building features like handicapped parking spaces and curb cuts might seem like just an ordinary part of everyday life. But prior to its passage in 1990, life was much harder for people with disabilities. Disabled Americans had to wage their own civil rights struggle to get this important act passed.

Did you know that disabled people used to be institutionalized because they were considered a burden for abled-body people to care for? Did you know that parents of disabled children used to face heavy discrimination for their children, who were often excluded and segregated from the abled? Disabled workers often faced pay discrimination as well. These and many other offenses are what lead to the movement that caused the ADA’s passage.

In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act made it illegal to discriminate against a disabled person if you received federal funds. This was also the first time that the disabled were grouped together as a single class. Disability doesn’t just cover physical impairment but also mental conditions and even certain diseases, especially long-lasting ones like HIV.

The 1980s were a time of long legal battles to preserve those regulations. Several major Supreme Court cases occurred during this time that set the legal foundations for the ADA’s passage in 1990.

The ADA covers four broad areas:
  • Employment discrimination of the disabled
  • Public services discrimination (especially transportation)
  • Public and private accommodations for the needs of the disabled
  • Telecommunications discrimination

At the time of passage, 43 million Americans, roughly a fifth of the population in 1990, were members of the disabled class. The ADA allowed disabled people to seek legal recourse under a strong framework of protections for them and punishments for those who discriminated against the disabled.

Thanks to this law and to later legal precedents and amendments, those with disabilities are now far more able to live their lives to the fullest. They can also fight against those who continue to discriminate against the disabled. If you are a disabled person and you believe you have faced discrimination in any of the above four areas, you do have options. Call The Cochran Firm for a free consultation. For more details on what the ADA covers, visit the ADA website.