July 26, 1990. That is the date that the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush.
Twenty-five years ago, President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act and changed the world for the able and disabled alike.
This landmark legislation improved the lives of millions of Americans who struggle daily with physical limitations. Changes were slow, but soon it had a significant impact, giving people more freedom and access that gave them more chances to participate in daily activities and access to places that before were off-limits.
Street curbs now had graded slopes for wheelchairs. Buses leaned to kneel and had lifts for wheelchairs. Buildings designed with extended ramps beside steps. Doors widened, and buttons appeared for automatic opening. Hotels created roll-in showers. Businesses and government buildings reserved parking spaces for the handicapped. ATM machines began providing instructions in braille. On some street corners, traffic signals beep and say when to walk. Yes, this was difficult, and it has added costs to businesses, but at the same time, they now have more customers.
Relating to our language services industry, people now have access to sign language interpreters in hospitals, courts, and at public meetings. Not at the discretion of the businesses or institutions, but backed by the force of law. People who struggled to communicate their needs to doctors now had easier access to health care, those that needed legal or social work help now got these critical services. In short, more people have a chance at participating in and benefiting from American life.
So today, we look back 25 years and recognized that we can and should continue to fight and push for laws that make life for all Americans a little better. This is what the Americans with Disabilities Act has taught all of us.