Among those recognizing the milestone, which was formally celebrated on Saturday, July 26, was President Joe Biden, who announced new digital accessibility standards to accompany the celebration.
“For more than three decades, the Americans with Disabilities Act has been a driving force in moving America closer to the promise of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for the 61 million individuals with disabilities in our country,” according to the White House announcement. “Because of the ADA and its protections against discrimination in public accommodations, employment, transportation, and community living, millions of people with disabilities have grown up with the promise of the same rights and chances as their peers without disabilities—and our communities, our economy, and our country are all stronger as a result.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the ADA represents federal civil rights protections for those with disabilities much like other civil rights legislation prohibits discrimination against individuals based on race, sex, religion, color and national origin.
In order to bolster these protections, Biden announced a new initiative spearheaded by the Department of Justice to bolster accessibility standards for mobile and web app-based services.
The rule, per the White House announcement, will suggest “clear technical standards, like including text descriptions of images so people using screen readers can understand the content, providing captions on videos, and enabling navigation through use of a keyboard instead of a mouse for those with limited use of their hands.”
"July marks 33 years of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which ensured that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as every American. As we near the end of Disability Pride Month, let’s recommit to supporting people with disabilities."
The ADA was passed in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush. Per the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 12.7% of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population was diagnosed with a disability in the five-year period between 2016 and 2020.
Per the White House, the impetus for the new online regulations comes as a result of many in the disability community still having trouble accessing important services like filing taxes, registering to vote, accessing vital records, applying for social services and taking courses online.
“This lack of accessibility has led unequal access to critical services for millions of Americans. As most services turned online during the pandemic, access disparities worsened. Deaf and hard of hearing people could not understand video messages from governors and mayors due to lack of captioning and American Sign Language interpretation,” notes the White House. “Community college students with certain disabilities, such as manual dexterity disabilities, could not properly navigate online course content.”
"Celebrating National Disability Independence Day! Today marks the anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act, empowering individuals with disabilities for 33 years. Let’s continue to raise awareness, promote accessibility and champion inclusivity for all. #OneFLA"
In addition to addressing accessibility, the Department of Justice also highlighted another initiative aimed at “Addressing the Criminalization of People with Disabilities.” The program seeks to mitigate “needless criminal justice involvement” for individuals with substance-use and mental-health disabilities by calling attention to the need for community-based services to address those issues.
“To fully realize the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we must confront issues that lie at the intersection of disability rights, criminal justice and racial justice. Simply put, people with disabilities should receive the services they need rather than being treated as criminals,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke.