Continuing our Commitment to Accessibility
by Andrew Kirkpatrick
posted on 07-26-2020
On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which, among other things, banned discrimination on the basis of disability in areas such as employment, transportation, public accommodation and services, and telecommunications. Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA and recognize the successes of this landmark civil rights statute – while also acknowledging that more work needs to be done to help further the ADA’s mission.
Today is a day to largely praise the advancements made possible by the ADA when it comes to improved access to public services and facilities and greater recognition of the skills and abilities possessed by those with disabilities. However, when it comes to topics like employment opportunities, wages, education, internet access, and criminal justice, the promises of the ADA have not yet been fully realized. This calls for renewed action by Congress and industry.
Joining forces for monumental change
Passage and enactment of the ADA was the culmination of years of advocacy and effort by both activists and government. Advocates like Patrisha Wright, Evan Kemp, Elizabeth Boggs, Justin Dart, Jr., Judy Heumann, and many others spent decades educating the public and elected leaders about the inequities disabled people face. They also fought for equality and fair treatment in the courts, winning some key victories along the way.
Their stories drove a bipartisan legislative effort in Congress. Democrats like Senators Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy and Representatives Tony Coelho and Steny Hoyer joined forces with Republicans like Senators Bob Dole and Orrin Hatch to draft the bill and help it overcome numerous political and procedural hurdles on its way to final passage. At the time the ADA was signed into law, there were 250 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 63 cosponsors in the Senate.
President Bush and others in his administration worked with these advocates and legislators to develop the language of the ADA and took the first steps to implement the law. When signing the ADA on that July morning in 1990, President Bush said:
“And now I sign legislation which takes a sledgehammer to another wall, one which has for too many generations separated Americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse, but not grasp. Once again, we rejoice as this barrier falls for claiming together, we will not accept, we will not excuse, we will not tolerate discrimination in America.”
That kind of bipartisan agreement and cooperation is critical to driving monumental change on such a consequential endeavor. But passage of the ADA did not end our nation’s struggle for equality, nor did it solve every problem or eliminate every disparity facing the disabled community. Those efforts have continued over the past three decades. Most notably Congress — with virtual unanimity — passed the ADA Amendments Act in 2008.
A commitment to the ADA today
Clearly, if the goal for the ADA is equality, fairness and access to economic opportunity for those with disabilities, the work is far from finished and continues to be an ongoing process.
A major opportunity in this effort is helping ensure that new technologies, which were not around in 1990, support all users. Web content and applications still present challenges for individuals with disabilities. In recent years, courts have considered how the ADA applies to these situations. Litigation has yielded some progress for the disabled community, but while the applicability of the ADA to the web is considered settled by many, there’s still a lot more work to be done.
Adobe has made a commitment to ensure its digital tools are accessible for all users. This includes developing accessibility features in our products and platforms as well as encouraging users to create content that is similarly accessible. Leading up to the 30th anniversary of the ADA, we have taken some major steps toward achieving this goal.
For example, we recently updated our “Blue Belt” internal accessibility awareness training program, that educates employees on the fundamentals of web and software accessibility. We developed and shared an inclusive design training program to help designers more easily integrate accessibility into their projects. We have also updated the Adobe Color toolset to help users determine whether their content can be viewed by people with colorblindness or color vision deficiency.
Over the past several years, we have worked with government and industry leaders in the U.S. and throughout the world to set accessibility standards to promote greater inclusion. This includes our work as a long-serving member of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Accessibility Guidelines Working Group. The working group is responsible for producing and updating the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which have set the core standards for accessibility regulations in countries throughout the world. The WCAG standard has informed improvements to millions of websites and to many online platforms, driving progress toward greater accessibility across the board.
Technology moves quickly. As new devices, programs, or systems are developed and become widely utilized – sometimes seemingly overnight – they tend to also create new accessibility challenges. While we, as a society, must work to quickly identify and address such challenges, our main goal should be to convince businesses and content creators to build accessibility into the development process from the start. In the end, that will give us the best chance to effectively stay ahead of new accessibility challenges. We call on Congress to look for additional opportunities to clarify responsibility for accessibility, to encourage businesses and content creators to improve accessibility support, and to take action and lead the world in the quest for equality for disabled people.
There are many reasons we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA. As we reflect on the progress we’ve made over the past three decades, we must also take stock and recognize the new opportunities ahead to help ensure greater equality and legal protections for those with disabilities. Ultimately, the best way to honor those who fought to make the ADA a reality is to keep pushing forward and continue the mission to advance this important cause.
At Adobe, we believe that everyone deserves respect and equal treatment, and we also stand with the Black community against hate, intolerance and racism. We will continue to support, elevate, and amplify diverse voices through our community of employees, creatives, customers and partners. We believe Adobe has a responsibility to drive change and ensure that every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. We must stand up and speak out against racial inequality and injustice. Read more about the actions we’re taking to make lasting change inside and outside of our company.
We also know many people are still impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis and our thoughts are with you. The entire Adobe team wants to thank you, our customers, and all creators around the world for the work you do to keep us inspired during this difficult time.
Topics: Data & Privacy, Diversity & Inclusion, Public Policy