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Reflections on the ADA's 25th year

This year marks 25 years since the Americans With Disabilities Act became federal law. The law requires schools, employers and other entities that people with disabilities encounter to provide reasonable accommodations, such as wheelchair ramps. Many consider the ADA to be one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress.

They credit the law with removing barriers that prevented otherwise capable people from going to school, living independently, and possibly pursuing a career. Beyond that, it changed how society views disabled people, and how those with disabilities identified themselves and others within the disabled community, according to a speaker at a recent panel discussion on the ADA.

The panel was made up of young people with disabilities from the “ADA generation.” That is, the panelists all grew up following the ADA’s 1990 passage. They acknowledged the impact the law has had in their lives, such as helping them complete their education in mainstream schools.

For those whose disabilities come later in life, or grow worse over time, working may become impossible. Social Security Disability payments can help make up for the lost income. Others are disabled from childhood and are never able to work. Depending on need, they may qualify for Supplemental Security Income.

Thanks to the ADA, many people who once might have faced unfair obstacles to employment are able to work and pursue a career. Unfortunately, some disabilities are extensive enough that earning a substantial income is not possible. This is why SSD and SSI benefits are necessary.

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