On July 26th we celebrate an important milestone with the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was, and still is today, a landmark law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public accommodation, communications, access to government programs and services, and more. It sought to power independence, economic self-sufficiency, full participation in American life and perhaps most importantly, equality for people with disabilities to have the same opportunities and rights as people without disabilities.
Whether it’s advocating for disability rights or innovating new technologies that empower people with disabilities, it all starts with people. Disability advocacy legends like Judy Heumann and Senator Tom Harkin broke down barriers for people with disabilities on the policy front, and many other talented leaders worked behind the scenes to create change. In celebration of these folks an in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the ADA, we’re excited to release a series we call “Simple Things Count.” This new animated series features seven disability advocates – including individuals that helped create the ADA, as well as the leaders already writing the next chapter – each sharing real-world stories and tips for building a more accessible, inclusive world.
The journey of disability inclusion continues. Progress is real and felt by every member of the disability community, but there is more work to be done and our current world has amplified the opportunity ahead. Coronavirus has accelerated the prioritization of digital solutions, and brought with it a spotlight on accessibility as people leverage technologies at work, home, education, and play. Within the first few weeks of quarantine, our Disability Answer Desk received 200% of normal call volumes, Immersive Reader experienced 560% normal use, and Teams Captioning usage was up 30x from a few months prior. Accessibility has never been more important, both digital and physical. At the same time, according to the World Health Organization, only 1 in 10 persons with disabilities has access to accessible technology, underscoring the need to continue creating and increasing access to technologies that empower everyone. As a way to help folks get educated on what’s possible, we recently launched a free accessibility fundamentals training with a goal of helping to strengthen educational opportunities and making the workplace more inviting and inclusive for people with disabilities.
It’s been 30 years since the ADA was signed into law, and while we’ve moved in the right direction, there is much more progress to be made. Shifting policies and perceptions on a topic as important as this takes decades and spans generations. Getting to where we are today required groundbreaking work from disability advocates like Senator Harkin and Judy Heumann, and will take continued efforts from others to build on the foundation they created. The future will require a new generation of advocates to continue driving that progress forward and realize the change we need to see. Please join us in working to make that shift, learn from the experts and remember that #SimpleThingsCount.