Thirty Years of the Americans With Disabilities Act

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Scholars reflect on three decades of the landmark antidiscrimination law, its effects, and its future.

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In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that provides antidiscrimination protections for people with disabilities. The law extends to many facets of everyday life, including employment, transportation, and public and private accommodations.

The ADA became law after a broad coalition of disability rights activists successfully lobbied Congress to acknowledge the discrimination that people with disabilities experience and to intervene on their behalf. The ADA, and the regulations that help implement it, have been credited with enhancing civic engagement opportunities for people with disabilities, promoting access to more inclusive and accessible technology, and realizing equal opportunity for students and employees. Scholars and activists, however, note that much remains to be done, including promoting disability rights and striving for disability justice.

The COVID-19 crisis, which has claimed nearly 300,000 lives so far in the United States, continues to pose an increased risk to Americans with certain underlying conditions and people who may not be able to implement risk-reducing measures effectively. Furthermore, the unemployment rate among people with disabilities has doubled since the pandemic began, suggesting that the ADA’s workplace antidiscrimination protections are not as robust as need be.

We hope that this series of essays encourages students and scholars to continue investigating and exploring how regulation can affect and protect people with disabilities. It builds on a special feature published by The Regulatory Review staff members Brianna Rauenzahn, Jamison Chung, and Aaron Kaufman earlier this summer—on the very eve of the ADA’s 30th anniversary.

This series of essays features contributions from the following scholars: Thomas M. Burke, Wellesley College; Doron Dorfman, Syracuse University College of Law; Jasmine E. Harris, University of California, Davis School of Law; Jacob Quasius, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School; and Brandy L. Wagstaff, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School.

The ADA, Telework, and the Post-Pandemic Workplace

September 7, 2020 | Brandy L. Wagstaff and Jacob Quasius, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

The pandemic has made clear that telework is now more prevalent and successful than ever before—a development that should alter how we look at telework as a “reasonable accommodation” under Title I of the ADA.

Thirty Years Later, Still Fighting Over the ADA

December 7, 2020 | Doron Dorfman, Syracuse University College of Law, and Thomas F. Burke, Wellesley College

The meaning of the ADA, and the extent to which it guarantees equality for people with disabilities, have been subject to political and legal struggle almost from its inception.

The Next Wave of Disability Law

December 8, 2020 | Jasmine E. Harris, University of California, Davis School of Law

Rather than silo disability or limit conversations about disability to the antidiscrimination realm, we ought to deploy disability as a critical lens across areas of law.