One week ago, the U.S. celebrated the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal civil rights law that was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. This momentous piece of legislation prohibits employers, schools and other state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and telecommunications companies from discriminating against people with disabilities. In doing so, the ADA ensures students with disabilities have equal access and opportunity to participate in programs and activities that students without disabilities can participate in. In the workplace, workers with qualified disabilities may be eligible for reasonable accommodations under the law to help them do their jobs.
While the ADA has helped millions of workers and students over the past 27 years, achievement gaps still exist. In 2015, 53 million adults or nearly 22 percent of the U.S. population reported having disabilities. Of those with disabilities, only 27 percent were employed in 2015. This is a 50-point gap compared to the 77 percent of U.S. adults without disabilities that were employed in 2015. Further, in 2014, only 16.4 percent of people with disabilities had bachelor’s degrees, while nearly 35 percent of those without disabilities had completed bachelor’s degrees, respectively.
This historic civil rights law has ensured millions of workers and students with disabilities have had the opportunity to achieve education and workforce success. Despite these protections, however, large equity gaps for individuals with disabilities still exist. The gaps are a clear indication that much more work must be done to reach equity in education and the workplace. ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning is committed to diversity and inclusion, which includes our efforts around accessibility for students with disabilities and others to help reach education and workplace success.