Act Now! Celebrating the Americans With Disabilities Act

President Obama commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

You might not realize it but July 26th, 1990 was a pivotal day for the ad world. Signed into law on that date by President Bush, the Americans With Disabilities Act provided a small, but solid foundation for disability and advertising.

According to wikipedia: The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined by the ADA as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” The determination of whether any particular condition is considered a disability is made on a case by case basis.

Here’s a great video that shares thoughts from the President commemorating the act’s anniversary.

For me, a partially-blind formative young adult, the act was a rally cry that shared we, as disabled people, could have a stronger voice. Personally, being disabled provided challenges AND opportunities – for tuition assistance through vocational rehabilitation, training and support from disabled student services and eventually guidance toward a career in advertising.

Initially, the Americans With Disabilities Act had little connection, if any, to advertising. The act is evolving, with President Obama commemorating the landmark date of the act’s passage with a amendments focused on broader governance and guidance of online communications. Now almost every corporate, governmental and organizational website integrates mandates to help those with disabilities navigate the online world. Still, there are many online challenges, such as scroll-over text recognition and closed-captioning issues. How do you see the act evolving and continuing to shape advertising and disability?


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