“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

President George H.W. Bush

Americans with Disability Act Turns 30

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a landmark civil rights law signed into law on July 26, 1990. It banned discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life. The law was enacted to ensure those with disabilities have the same access to opportunities and the community as those without disabilities.

The signing of the ADA was one of the moments of triumph in the history of American Civil Rights. This year marks the 30th anniversary of this important legislation, which mandated the removal of barriers to:

  • Jobs (Title I – Employment)
  • Public Services (Title II – State and Local Government)
  • Private Businesses (Title III – Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities)
  • Closed Captioning and Relay Services (Title IV- Telecommunications)
  • And more (Title V – Miscellaneous Provisions)

Learn More about the historic day

The ADA caused profound, positive changes to the ways people with disabilities experience daily life. All Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the movement’s heroes, who paved the way for passage of the ADA through personal and collective struggle.

A Work Unfinished

In addition to recognizing the historical importance of the ADA, the 30th Anniversary gives us an opportunity to take stock of work that still needs to be done.

Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment, has influenced attitudes and behaviors. However, even with this law in place, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability is roughly twice as high as the rate for those without a disability.  In 2019, the employment-population ratio for people with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 64 was 30.9 percent as compared to 74.6 percent for people without a disability.

For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), progress towards competitive employment has been mixed. We at UMKC IHD and others around the nation have conducted research showing that supported employment interventions can enable adults with IDD to get and keep jobs. Yet, in 2016, the rate for integrated paid employment for adults with IDD was less than 10% (Hiersteiner, Bershadsky, Bonardi, & Butterworth, 2016). 

With this as our background, UMKC IHD is committed to redoubling our efforts to improve these statistics. We will continue to work closely with our partners such as the Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities, Easter Seals Midwest, and Missouri Assistive Technology, among others, to move us toward this goal.


Hiersteiner, D., Bershadsky, J., Bonardi, A., & Butterworth, J. (2016). Working in the community: The status and outcomes of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in integrated employment–Update 2. Cambridge, MA: Human Services Research Institute.