National Disability Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, opening the door and breaking down barriers that individuals with disabilities faced every day. This is a day to honor an act that has enabled those with disabilities to gain tools for daily life.
The ADA is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life; this includes jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public. The law provides individuals with disabilities with protections similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. This day not only celebrates the anniversary of the ADA — it also serves several other purposes.
First, the law broke down barriers individuals with disabilities faced every day. Over time, common barriers, such as narrow doorways and small bathroom stalls, were phased out and replaced with infrastructure accessible to wheelchairs. Other examples include braille signs, and crosswalks for the vision impaired. These changes improved mobility and safety.
The journey has been long for those with invisible disabilities. Invisible disabilities can include many different diagnoses, such as mental disorders, cognitive dysfunctions, chronic pain, etc. It has taken great advocacy, along with the courage of trail blazers, to permit the world to see beyond the veil into this world. One trail blazer is Temple Grandin, who began speaking in the 1980s about her experience as an Autistic person.
It took years of advocacy until 1990 to pass a law regarding disabilities. The ADA made possible opportunities for those with disabilities to have access and rights. Still, for those with invisible disabilities, it is taking longer to have acceptance and opportunities. Often, organizations, parents, and communities, are striving to move towards change.
One with an invisible disability can look just like anyone else. There is nothing that makes one visibly noticeable to the world. The hope is that the ADA can aid in greater acceptance of those with invisible disabilities. (2022 Boston Planning & Development Agency)
On the heels of Woodstock, a group of teen campers are inspired to join the fight for disability civil rights. This spirited look at grassroots activism is executive produced by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.