Washington, DC (July 26, 2020)—This summer marks 30 years since a major milestone in our history—the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The American Foundation for the Blind is celebrating the anniversary with a series of articles and conversations.
A Conversation with Haben Girma kicked off the celebration. AFB president and CEO, Dr. Kirk Adams, chatted with Haben Girma about her memoir Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law, the different experiences they had attending college before and after the passage of the ADA, the intersection of racism and ableism, and the importance of accessible online spaces during the pandemic.
In a followup piece on the AFB Blog, Reflecting on the Americans with Disabilities Act, 30 Years Later, Dr. Adams wrote, “My appreciation of this landmark legislation has only deepened over the years. The fact that ADA declared that it is not legal to discriminate against someone because of their disability was a big and bold statement, and it brought people with disabilities into the conversation with other groups who’ve experienced systemic oppression.”
“The opportunity we now have is to look at the catalyst of the Black Lives Matter movement as it intersects with the 30th anniversary of the ADA – and consider how we bring together all these voices and concerns with civil rights with the understanding and dismantling of systemic barriers. We celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA, but we must keep our focus on continuing to dismantle the institutional oppression against all marginalized groups, and continue with the activism, the sacrifice, the blood, sweat, and tears. Let’s build on that foundation.”
As Dr. Adams noted, “When many people think of the ADA, they tend to think about it in terms of physical spaces – for example, the way architectural spaces were redesigned for wheelchair users or people with mobility impairments. For people who are blind or low vision, it also brought about the proliferation of braille in public spaces, such as elevators and hotel room doors.” But it has achieved much more than that. Test your knowledge of how the ADA has transformed society for people who are blind or have low vision with AFB’s accessible online quiz.
AFB staff and board members shared their thoughts on the impact the ADA has had on their own lives and what the future holds for people with disabilities. “The ADA is a gift and a step in the right direction for equality, civil rights, and freedom. One day, I hope the work we do here at AFB helps that law graduate beyond the letters by which it was written, and rises up to capture its spirit, its potential, and its power,” said Tanner Gers, Business Development Lead, AFB Consulting.
Follow the AFB Blog for more interviews and guest posts on the future of the ADA.
The ADA was a powerful step forward for our society. It set out an expectation that we would, as George H.W. Bush said upon signing the bill into law, “Let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down!” At AFB, we are working every day to create a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired, to make sure the promise of the ADA becomes a reality.
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About the American Foundation for the Blind Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org