The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. The law prohibited discrimination in employment based on disability and mandated access to government services and public accommodations for people with disabilities. It also required that public transportation be made accessible to wheelchair users.
In the 25 years since its passage, the Americans with Disabilities Act has dramatically improved accessibility for people with disabilities and limited mobility. Public buildings have been retrofitted with elevators, wheelchair lifts, and ramps to allow people with disabilities full access. Private businesses have also renovated their facilities to become more accessible.
Some of the greatest advances have been in the area of public transportation. Subway and train stations across the United States used to be accessible only by staircases that were impossible for people with disabilities to navigate. Since the ADA was signed, many subway stations and commuter rail stations have installed elevators to make the tracks and trains accessible to wheelchair users.
The ADA does not just benefit wheelchair users. For example, an elevator in a train station or a shopping mall can make it easier for a parent with a child in a stroller, a person carrying bags, or a senior citizen to move about freely.
Public and private buildings and public accommodations are still being upgraded to make them ADA-compliant. The process of retrofitting a building or transportation facility to install an elevator is costly and time-consuming. The price is typically thousands or even millions of dollars, depending on the design and structure of the facility. While more work remains to be done to provide complete access for individuals with disabilities, a great deal of progress has been made.