National Council on Disability Says Americans with Disabilities Act Findings Encouraging - With More to be Done
July 26, 2007
WASHINGTON—The National Council on Disability (NCD) today released two reports on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that show that ADA implementation is not only possible and practicable, it is also good for business.
The first, The Impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Assessing the Progress toward Achieving the Goals of the ADA, describes a retrospective study and review of the impact the ADA has had on the lives of Americans with disabilities during the first sixteen years since its passage, with particular focus on the four major goals of the ADA—equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. Progress toward the goal of economic self-sufficiency appears to be the goal having the least success.
The purpose of the ADA is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” This report describes a two-year retrospective study and review of the impact the ADA has had on the lives of Americans with disabilities over a sixteen-year period, with particular focus on the four major goals of the ADA—equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. NCD-funded researchers consulted disability experts and ADA stakeholders from around the country through interviews, public forums, and focus groups, and analyzed existing data and information sources to gather information about the impact of the ADA. The findings are encouraging but far from complete.
The provisions of the ADA addressing architectural, transportation, and communication accessibility have changed the face of American society in numerous concrete ways by enhancing the independence, full participation, inclusion, and equality of opportunity for Americans with disabilities. People with disabilities report having greater access to goods and services from businesses, state and local governments, and their local communities. People with mobility impairments have experienced substantial improvements in physical access to transportation, businesses and government agencies. As workers, people with disabilities are more likely to receive accommodations and less likely to be terminated due to their disabilities. However, obtaining employment remains difficult for people with visible and severe disabilities. Disparities still exist in access to health insurance, health care, and financial assets for people with disabilities, as compared to people without disabilities. Access to information, particularly the Internet, is inconsistent, at best, for people who are visually impaired. Progress toward the goal of economic self-sufficiency appears to be the goal having the least success.
The ADA impact report contains recommendations for addressing the barriers that are preventing full achievement of the overarching goals of the ADA.
The second report, Implementation of the ADA: Challenges, Best Practices, and New Opportunities for Success, highlights many strategies for ADA implementation that have been successful, as well as obstacles that are preventing ADA implementation. This report reflects the experiences and ideas of ADA stakeholders from around the country, including small and large businesses, employers, judges and legal professionals, governmental entities, and individuals with disabilities, concerning ADA implementation. Through this extensive stakeholder input, NCD learned of the many strategies for ADA implementation that have been successful, as well as obstacles that are preventing ADA implementation.
One important finding is that meaningful ADA implementation is both possible and practicable. Some effective ADA implementation practices were identified that can serve as models and that illustrate how diverse covered entities are going about making the promise of the ADA a reality. However, in many areas, the ADA remains unimplemented, and gaps in information, knowledge, and interest in compliance with the ADA still exist. Therefore, this study also focused on understanding why certain sectors of our society have made little progress in ADA implementation and on developing recommendations to address those implementation gaps.
The ADA implementation report contains extensive recommendations for improving ADA implementation, and NCD remains committed to working with the Administration, Congress, and the public to achieve the promise of the ADA for all Americans—the elimination of disability-based discrimination in all aspects of society.
Despite extensive ADA technical assistance and training available from federal agencies, however, people with disabilities report widespread failure to comply with the ADA by small businesses, especially those in small towns and rural areas. Input from small businesses revealed that many in the small business community still do not understand the specific requirements of the ADA. Some mistakenly believe the ADA does not apply to them, while others believe the ADA requires much more than it does. NCD’s ADA implementation report contains an ADA public awareness campaign prototype targeting small businesses, and calls for Congress to provide specific funding to DOJ and all technical assistance organizations, such as the ADA & IT Technical Assistance Centers, for outreach to chambers of commerce, Rotary Clubs, and other small business organizations. NCD also recommends that building renovation requests trigger an ADA compliance review.
According to NCD chairperson John R. Vaughn, “It is 17 years since the ADA was enacted and yet public awareness and societal attitude issues are still factors that inhibit the full promise of the ADA to truly level the playing field for people with disability. NCD conducted this ADA implementation project to learn from the successes, best practices and to bring together people with disabilities and covered entities to develop recommendations to advance ADA implementation. This dialogue resulted in 167 recommendations. So, there is much to do, and we look forward to working with all ADA stakeholders to further the progress toward a fully accessible America.”
NCD is an independent federal agency and is composed of 15 members appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. It provides advice to the President, Congress, and executive branch agencies to promote policies, programs, practices, and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability and to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society.