The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark federal law that protects persons with physical or mental disabilities from discrimination. Due to the passage of this law, for the first time, people with disabilities are protected from discrimination based solely on their disability and assured access to all programs and services provided by state and government agencies.
Signed into law on July 26, 1990, the ADA prohibits physical barriers in employment, public accommodations, transportation, housing, telecommunications, recreation, health services, voting, and government services. This civil rights statue guarantees that Americans with disabilities will have the same protection against discrimination that is provided to other individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion. The ADA helps to ensure that persons with disabilities receive “full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges and advantages in public accommodations.”1
The ADA has been litigated numerous times since it became law. Many of the decisions in these court cases have limited or weakened the protections afforded to individuals with disabilities. In 1999, for instance, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that correctable conditions, such as the ability to improve vision with eyeglasses, do not qualify under the guidelines of the ADA. And recently the Supreme Court ruled on a case that pertains directly to the ADA. This case, which dealt with the failure of some states to provide access to state buildings, will be a powerful starting point for curriculum development, discussion and examination of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.2
This curriculum allows students the opportunity to understand the role the Supreme Court plays in laws and decisions that affect individuals with disabilities and to examine the policies of the American with Disabilities Act. The students will be able to draw parallels between policies enacted by the ADA and the ways in which these policies affect their everyday lives.
This topic will allow students the opportunity to focus on a subject that is important to their community and will allow them the opportunity to gain skills necessary for self-advocacy. The students will gain an understanding of the laws that pertain to their disabilities and the way these rights are enforced by the Supreme Court. This will give the students a better understanding of the Constitution, branches of government and social and judicial policies.