July 26 marked the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark law passed in 1990 that for the first time in our history created nationwide standards for combating discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, telecommunications relay services and government activities.
The Act has led to a number of significant legal decisions, which have helped to balance the rights and responsibilities of workers with disabilities and their employers. For example, the ADA requires owners of stores, restaurants and other public locations to provide access to people with disabilities — this is something we often take for granted.
As a labor and employment attorney, I often deal with cases involving the ADA. It is imperative that employers understand the law and the consequences of noncompliance.
Despite the ADA creating a benchmark for employers, it also created a strong foundation for lawmakers to build on and provide even broader protections for disabled workers. For example, President George W. Bush amended the law in 2008 and more recently, President Obama signed an executive order, requiring the federal government to hire 100,000 new employees with disabilities by 2015.
The ADA, like many other laws designed to combat discrimination, is successfully furthering the cause for equality among all people. With about 20 percent of the labor force made up of people with disabilities, everyone should take a moment to reflect on the importance of this law and be cognizant of its impact on our workforce in places of public accommodation, and how it has improved the quality of life for millions of Americans.
Michael Landen, Miami
was published by the Miami Herald.