Happy 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act!

Paul SchroederToday, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is officially 20 years old! I remember attending the ceremony at the White House where President George H.W. Bush signed the law on July 26, 1990 and I’m looking forward to celebrating with President Obama and the disability community today.

Of course, American children with vision loss have grown up in a society that, while not perfect, hopefully more effectively includes people with disabilities. ADA says no to discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, government services and access to goods and services. Hopefully, ADA says yes to enabling those of us with disabilities to pursue and develop our interests.

There is still a lot of work going on to extend ADA’s prohibition against discrimination into other areas of life. For example, today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it is officially proposing to require that commercial websites be made accessible for people with disabilities. In addition, DOJ also announced that it is exploring requiring movie theaters to include video description and captioning for movies.

Meanwhile, Congress is celebrating ADA in yet another way. Today, the United States House of Representatives is voting on a new law, H.R. 3101, the 21st Century Communications And Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This legislation, which still must pass the Senate and be signed by the President before it becomes law, would improve access to communications technologies that connect to the Internet and make television watching much more fun and informative for those of us with vision loss. Specifically, H.R. 3101 will:

  • Restore and expand requirements for video description of television programs, in addition to requiring cable companies to make their program guides and selection menus accessible to people with vision loss.
  • Mandate mobile phone companies to make web browsers, text messaging, and email on smart phones fully accessible.
  • Ensure people with vision loss have access to emergency broadcast information.
  • Provide $10 million in funding each year for assistive technology for deaf-blind individuals.

At the time it was written, no one could have predicted the new technologies that would shape our daily lives and work routines. The ADA is best known for improving physical access to buildings, but now it is being used to improve our lives in many other ways, including in access to technology.

This is shaping up to be quite a 20th birthday. And, you can play a part in the celebrations and plans for the future.

You can watch the White House ADA celebration, which begins at 5:30 Eastern time, via the web at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Please log in and share in the celebration.

To learn more about the proposals from the Department of Justice, and to register your own comment in support of access to the web and to video description, use these links:


Comments are welcome from the public and are due by January 24, 2011.

Sign up for alerts from FamilyConnect, so that you will learn about opportunities to help advocate for the bill. Your support will be especially needed to get it approved by the United States Senate!