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The Americans with Disabilities Act turns 30 and shows how far we still need to go

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Happy Monday, readers. I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of President George H.W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. It was a watershed moment—legislation that stood at the nexus of civil rights and health care by requiring accommodations for disabled people.

It didn’t come easy. Disability rights groups banded together to shine light on a long-festering injustice, a system where people with everything from intellectual to physical disabilities were often ignored, dismissed, and ridiculed.

Public and private facilities had few provisions such as elevators, wheelchair ramps, or other means of assisting disabled Americans. In one searing moment during March 1990, dozens of disabled protesters left their wheelchairs to literally crawl up the steps of the nation’s Capitol, refusing to accept help as they made their way up more than 80 steps to demonstrate the indignities of the status quo and champion the ADA.

There’s no doubt that the law’s passage was a milestone victory. But three decades later, disability rights groups are still fighting for broad enforcement of the ADA and local anti-discrimination laws in some of the nation’s largest cities.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of New York is facing a class action lawsuit over the subway system’s inability to provide elevators for those with mobility problems. Just about one in four stations in the sprawling public transport system provide stair-free access, according to the nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates.

In the job market, discrimination is still common despite the ADA and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employers may not openly admit they’re less willing to hire someone with a physical or mental disability, but there are plenty of anecdotal accounts of people receiving more interview opportunities when they don’t mention their disability in a job application.

Under the FLSA, it’s legal to pay less than minimum wage to certain people with disabilities. Former President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2014 requiring all federal contractors, including those with disabilities, to be given a minimum wage hike after pushback on an original pay increase proposal which didn’t include them.

The ADA is an historic law. There’s clearly still a long way to go.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
[email protected]

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