A Greater Measure of "Equal Treatment":
("Why ADA Compliance is Not Enough" - part 3 of 4)

This is the BarrierFreeChoices logo. Clicking on it will take you to our home page (which will open in a new window).When the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1990, it was heralded as a major legislative victory for America's largest minority group. The ADA was the first Civil Rights legislation in the World for people with disabilities.

And the ADA has helped many of us who are disabled to achieve a greater measure of "equal treatment" since it became law.

However, like any other Civil Rights legislation, the ADA does have its deficiencies when viewed from the standpoint of those whom that legislation was intended to benefit. And sometimes achieving a true measure of equality can take an extremely long time indeed.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Quote from Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

Here are some examples of how long it takes for "minorities" to achieve a greater measure of equal treatment:

  • American women finally won the right to vote through passage of the U.S. Constitution's Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But depending on whom you ask, or which history book you read, the Women's Suffrage Movement began in America in 1848, or perhaps in 1637. So it either took 72 years, or 283 years, for American women to finally get the right to vote. Here's an interesting timeline:

    U.S. Suffrage movement timeline 1792 to the present.
    from the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership, University of Rochester.

So how long has all this been going on for Disabled Americans? After all, we are America's largest minority group, comprised of people of all races, nationalities, sexes, and ethnic backgrounds. When did our struggle begin?

For most individuals with disabilities, their struggle for independence begins the moment they become disabled.

In our Barrier-Free Planet section, accessible from our Navigation Page, you will find a wealth of resources that discuss the modern history of the Independent Living Movement. Here are a couple of quick histories you might find of interest:

Around 1982, Maggie Shreve, a consultant for independent living centers, wrote A Brief History of the Movement for Independent Living, which discusses the role of disabled people in society going all the way back to Ancient Greece.

In 1988, the Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL), University of Kansas, published Chava Willig Levy's People's History of the Independent Living Movement. This document, written just two years before the passage of the ADA, traces the movement back to the 1920's.

Temple University recently published a "Disability History Timeline" which goes back to 1817.

Why does civil rights legislation (like the ADA) take so long, or only partially succeed, in achieving its "equal treatment" goals?

Because in the final analysis, almost all legislation requires some degree of compromise. And compromising on what one instinctively senses should be a basic human right doesn't tend to instill a high degree of confidence in the "system."


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