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Message from EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon on the 30th Anniversary of the ADA

On July 26, 2020, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of President George H.W. Bush signing into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

President George H.W. Bush signing the ADA

The ADA story began years before its enactment, when people with disabilities and their allies began opposing unfair barriers that kept people with disabilities excluded from vast swaths of life, including joining and thriving in America’s workforce. This movement brought existing inequalities to the attention of those in all levels of government, the press, and the American people.

The ADA was introduced in Congress in 1988. The bill went through numerous drafts, revisions, negotiations, and amendments, and was re­introduced in the new Congress the following year. In writing the ADA, Congress recognized that people with disabilities experienced discrimination ranging from intentional exclusion and failure to make modifications, to exclusionary standards and criteria. Moreover, unlike those who experienced discrimination based on other characteristics, people with disabilities often had no legal avenues to remedy discriminatory treatment. Congress clearly stated that the nation’s goals with respect to people with disabilities included assuring equality of opportunity, full participation, and economic self-sufficiency.

Upon signing the ADA into law, President Bush echoed congressional sentiment when he said, “[W]e rejoice as this barrier falls for claiming together we will not accept, we will not excuse, we will not tolerate discrimination in America.”

Later, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 both expanded and focused the ADA, broadening its coverage of people with disabilities and the definitions of disability in several ways, including “regarded as” discrimination.

Those who work at the EEOC bring President Bush’s words to life each day as they carry out EEOC’s mission to “prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and advance equal opportunity for all in the workplace.” We recognize and celebrate the many positive changes brought about by 30 years of the ADA.

To mark the ADA’s 30th anniversary, we have created this Web page to provide helpful information about disability rights and responsibilities in the workplace. Included on the Web page are a short description of the law and a selection of some resources to assist applicants, employees, employers (including small businesses), staffing firms, and veterans with disabilities and their employers to better understand the ADA.

And to celebrate the ADA’s success in putting people to work, the Web page includes stories of people with disabilities who gained (or re-gained) employment through the EEOC’s mediation program. This is just a small snapshot of the many people for whom the ADA has opened doors.

The EEOC will continue to use its resources to advise employers and employees on their respective ADA obligations and rights, and, where necessary, to take steps to enforce the statute. The EEOC is proud to play its crucial part in helping to achieve the ADA’s goal of eliminating workplace discrimination against qualified people with disabilities—people who contribute greatly to their workplaces and our country.