Will Disabled Individuals Have Worldwide Access?
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990. It opened not only public spaces, but also communication and employment opportunities for disabled Americans. Now the U.S. Senate is debating on whether to ratify a U.N. treaty to provide similar accessibility to individuals around the world. The Americans with Disabilities Act The Americans with Disabilities Act covers 6 main areas: employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government operations, and telecommunication relay services. Employers were required to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities who are otherwise qualified for a position. While accommodations are required to be made, they cannot result in an undue hardship on the employer. “Public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctor's offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and daycare centers, may not discriminate on the basis of disability.” This provision requires that any physical barriers be removed, new construction and alterations be made to allow for accessibility, and auxiliary aids and services must be provided. Public bus systems, public rail systems, and privately owned bus and van companies were required to assure that there was equal access to these transportation systems for disabled individuals. For public bus systems, the law required all new buses to be accessible with the goal of having the entire bus fleet containing accessible buses through replacement of vehicles. Public rails were required to put in elevators to reach elevated or submerged rail systems, to assure that the gap between a train car and the station platform would not hinder disabled access, and that all new rail cars be accessible. With private bus and van companies, new buses and vans must be accessible, but if the company already has dedicated disabled vehicles, that service must be equivalent to the service offered to the general public. State and local governments were forced to make all facilities accessible just like public accommodations, as well as not discriminate against a qualified disabled employee, the same as other employers. And the ADA made sure that all telephone companies offered “telephone relay services to individuals who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD's) or similar devices.” All of these requirements allowed for not only employment opportunities for disabled individuals, but opened up public facilities such as parks, museums, theaters, and other businesses so that individuals with difficulty ambulating could enjoy these experiences along with the able-bodied population. International accessibility The ADA made a huge impact on the United States and opened up our society to individuals who had been excluded. This is not applicable to the rest of the world. At present, the administration is lobbying the Senate to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The U.N. Convention is “modeled largely on American law….The treaty aims to ensure the disabled enjoy equal rights as their fellow citizens, extending many provisions introduced by the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act.” This would help Americans abroad have similar accessibility as they have here. Proponents argue “little would be demanded of the United States, which has set standards for everything from ensuring wheelchair access and handicapped-accessible toilets in public buildings to rules forbidding workplace discrimination against people with disabilities.” Opposition to this treaty is great. Whether it will be ratified by the Senate is yet to be seen. While the ADA is separate and distinct from Social Security Disability (SSD), the ADA opened many resources for those who need SSD. If you require accommodations and need SSD benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.