Celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Americans with Disabilities Act 2021.

Image Source: Celina Oseguera and ADA logo credit: ADA National Network.

Continuing our commitment to the future of Digital Accessibility

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law in 1990 and prohibits the discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including education, jobs, transportation, and public and private places that are open to the public. Passage of the ADA was a tremendous milestone to help ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Last year, I wrote that since the enactment of the American Disabilities Act, there has been significant progress in companies awareness of the need to keep up with the latest accessibility standards and requirements. However, as technology continues to evolve quickly, the proliferation of new standards and requirements can leave companies feeling overwhelmed about keeping up with the onslaught of standards. The need for companies to keep accessibility top of mind has never been more relevant given the significant shift to digital services due to the pandemic.

With many companies having to set up online services and websites for the first time in order to keep their business running, some may not be aware of what it means to support the ADA or how to get there. Accessibility for digital content has been a key focus area for companies and advocates of people with disabilities when the internet became ubiquitous. While some progress has been made in recent years, the increased dialog about digital accessibility shows there is more work that needs to be done to further encourage businesses, website designers, developers, and content creators to make accessibility support a top priority.

Supporting the ADA

Supporting the ADA means avoiding discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and while this was first applied to physical spaces, with the rise of technology in our lives, it is also being applied to digital technology. Under the ADA, businesses must provide support or make accommodations for people with disabilities, and online content should be no exception. If a company fails to create a website that supports users of all abilities, they are not only failing to do what’s right for people with disabilities — they could face legal action. The 2020 Return on Disability Report estimated that in the United States people with disabilities control 1.28 trillion dollars in disposable income, and including the disposable income of friends and family of people with disabilities, increases that figure to 8.38 trillion. There is potential legal risk associated with not supporting the ADA but ignoring the 24 percent of American citizens with disabilities is also ignoring a substantial customer segment.

It is important for content providers and users that policymakers continue to further clarify that the ADA applies to the web, so companies have a clear view of what it means to deliver accessible experiences for users. Official guidance on applying the ADA to the web starts with globally-accepted standards like the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for website accessibility but will need to include additional details on what level of WCAG conformance is required and how to handle legacy content or content that changes too rapidly to accurately assess.

As we look for clearer laws and guidelines for digital accessibility, using resources such as WCAG or reading the ADA requirements can help companies and content creators gain a better understanding of how to create a more accessible website for users with disabilities.

Adobe’s commitment to accessibility in the future of work

Adobe is committed to helping ensure its digital tools are accessible for users with differing abilities. We’re continually developing and updating the accessibility features in our products and platforms to keep up with the latest technologies in this area. We’re also encouraging our own users to create content that is more accessible.

Leading up to the 31st anniversary of the ADA, we continue our commitment to accessibility, especially as we head into a new future of how we work. These include:

Continuing our work today and beyond

There are countless reasons to celebrate the anniversary of the ADA — this act made huge strides in the disability community, providing accommodations to people with disabilities after years of advocating for the same rights as everyone else. While we reflect on the great progress that has been made in recent years, we must continue to push ahead and honor those who made the passage of the ADA possible. As the future of work and digital accessibility evolves, we must continue supporting and advocating for the future needs of those with disabilities.