But at its heart, the ADA is simple. In the words of one activist, this landmark law is about securing for people with disabilities the most fundamental of rights: ‘the right to live in the world.’ It ensures they can go places and do things that other Americans take for granted. -Tom Harkin

  1. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was the first significant piece of legislation in the world to systematically address discrimination and the barriers that people with disabilities face. This act inspired other countries to enact protective legislation for people with disabilities. Read more here.
  2. Tom Harkin authored and introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Senate. He famously delivered part of his speech to the senate in sign language so he could be understood by his brother who was watching. You can watch this part of his speech here.
  3. Capitol Crawl: On March 12, 1990, over 1,000 protestors arrived at the Capitol Building to protest the delay of the passing of the ADA. At the end of the day, after protests and speeches, 60 people set their crutches and wheelchairs aside and crawled the 83 stone steps that led to the Capitol Building. After the crawl, all dissention surrounding the act evaporated.
  4. Gallaudet University & Irving King Jordan: The world’s only university designed to be barrier free for deaf and hard of hearing students. Students learn in American Sign Language and English. American Sign language was first recognized as a language at Gallaudet University. Irving King Jordan became the first deaf president of Gallaudet University in 1988. In 1990, President George Bush appointed Dr. Jordan as Vice Chair of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He was reappointed to this position in 1993 by President Clinton. In 2010, President Barak Obama appointed Dr. Jordan to serve on the Commission on Presidential Scholars.
  5. Service Dogs and the Rights of the Disabled: Service Dogs in Public Settings: In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. Even more, people are not required to have a vest or collar that sates the dog is a service animal. In addition, under the “direct threat” provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions may not exclude a service animal because of fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave.

Learn more about the history of the ADA.