CCDA Celebrates 75 Years of National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the Americans with Disabilities Act 30th Anniversary
The California Commission on Disability Access is proud to celebrate the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Since 1945, the nation has recognized October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), when we celebrate the many contributions that people with disabilities bring to the workforce and contribute to our communities. True access to competitive employment, family sustaining wages and benefits, and the ability to choose and pursue our life’s dreams is the foundation of justice. Every person is entitled to an accessible workplace, a level playing field, and the same privileges, pursuits, and opportunities as family, friends, and neighbors without disabilities. No person should face unnecessary barriers to success, and no person with a disability should be limited in their desire to work.
Since the ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, the civil rights law works to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life and to prohibit discrimination. People with disabilities are protected by the ADA in areas such as employment, education, transportation, and all public and private places open to the general public.
Since the ADA was signed, we have seen many advances in disability and accessibility awareness. Today we have asked commissioners, architects, state and local leaders, businesses, and the disability community the same question:
"What does the ADA means to you and how you would like to see California progress to become a barrier-free state?"
Betty Wilson, Los Angeles
Founding CCDA Commissioner
"The ADA was the finest law and writs authored for this nation a good quality of life for all people. Indeed, the ADA laws advanced the highest respect within the civil rights to guarantee equality of life for all. Looking forward, we need to consider the distinct differences and needs amongst the rural, suburban, and urban communities. We must have dedicated focus of universal design of new construction. And lastly disability access should be forged with people disability as contributors not just recipients."
Commissioner Michael Paravagna, Sacramento
ADA Coordinator, Former Chief California Department of Rehabilitation Disability Services
“The United States of America has been a noble experiment since 1776 in its attempt to realize equality for all Americans. The Americans with disabilities act of 1990 is a promise of inclusion to persons with disabilities. With every ramp built, every employment accommodation successfully put into place, every communication procedure implemented; we come closer to realizing the equality set is a great American goal in 1776. That goal will never be achieved until all Americans are included.”
Commissioner Tiffany A. Allen, San Diego
Sr. Emergency Manager & Disability Subject Matter Expert/ Consultant
“The ADA has helped to ensure that I have had equal access to the community I am a part of; & afforded me the opportunities to become a productive member of society. It also began the larger conversation of inclusion & independence for those who were once rarely thought of. I would like to see every city, regardless of size, to employ a staffed Office of ADA Compliance and Accessibility.”
Commissioner Chris Downey, AIA
Architect, president and founder, Architecture for the Blind
“As an architect in the first 18 years of the ADA, I thought of it as an obligation. Since losing my sight in 2008, I’ve come to experience and appreciate that the Americans with Disabilities Act is the least that is to be done to enable access to happiness, inclusion, justice and human dignity for all people at all stages of their lives. I’d like the ADA to be incorporated as an essential part of our sustainable green guiding initiatives and certifications for renovations and remodels as well as new construction. It’s simply not sustainable or resilient if our buildings, communities and cities across our state are not inclusive and empowering of all its people.”
Dr. Sue ElHessen, Commissioner, Online Faculty University of Phoenix, Bellflower
“Upon the passing of the American's with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990 I had so much hope for equality in access, employment and other aspects of inclusion in society. As we move forward into the 21st century people with disabilities still lag behind their able-bodied peers in every aspect of their lives. Their jobless rate as of 2019 continued to be about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability. I have made it my intention to open doors and educate employers and legislators to increase opportunities for greater independence and inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of life. I hope that as we forward into the future that true equality across gender, race, disability, ethnic and socio-economic status will be achieved for full inclusion.”
Commissioner M. Scott Lillibridge, Rocklin
Associate Principal, RICK Engineering Company
“I started my civil engineering career the same year the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was enacted. Since then the ADA has been a big part of my professional life as it has incorporated accessibility into our design of the built environment. As a result, it’s satisfying to know that a significant percentage of my fellow Californians with disabilities have been provided increased access to employment, programs and to goods and services ever since. As we look ahead to developing future transportation technologies, I’m excited to see what new innovations for accessibility can also be incorporated into the technology to increase mobility and make our transportation systems safer, greener and more efficient for all of us.”
Commissioner Ida Clair, AIA, LEED, AP, CASp, Sacramento
Division of the State Architect, Acting State Architect
“I have witnessed how the ADA has improved the ability of my friends who use wheelchairs to navigate the built environment. In addition, my work in private practice as an architect and certified access specialist created an opportunity to become DSA’s first technical administrator of the CASp program. At DSA, my contributions to the development of the State’s accessibility regulations, CASp regulations, and accessibility training afforded an opportunity to become DSA’s Principal Architect and lead a team of extremely competent technical professionals who are careful stewards of the State’s accessibility regulations. I am committed to completing DSA’s study of the technical evaluation of detectable warning surfaces.”
Commissioner Brian Holloway, Sacramento
Holloway Land Company, President
“My first exposure to the ADA was during the 1980’s when I had the opportunity to travel around the western states in a motorhome with a good friend who was disabled and needed to use a wheelchair. The ADA was not as well implemented then, except for disabled parking spaces, so we encountered many obstacles in getting to and into many businesses, restrooms, elevated locations and public spaces. This brought home to me personally how much more needed to be done then, to implement the ADA. We still have a way to go, but with CCDA and with it's many supporters and participants we are making it better and increasingly removing obstacles for all residents of California.
Dr. Jane Conoley, Long Beach State University President
“ADA is a critical law that has enabled millions of young people to pursue higher education in the United States. The law is vital to the success of many of our students, faculty and staff. A constraining factor is, of course, funding. We are forced at times to limit the size of important programs (e.g., ASL) so we can afford the associated costs of translators. This is a real loss to our society. Our country and our Cal State University Long Beach campus are enriched because of ADA. The diversity of people on our campus is inspiring!”
Benjamin Cantu, Manteca
City of Manteca Mayor, Land Use Planner/Designer
“The ADA requirements have played an integral part in the land use planning and building and site improvements design business that have operated for over 20 years. Every new development or remodel project incorporates the design features and requirements of the ADA.”
Marie Trudelle, San Francisco
Founder of Analemma Design
As an educator for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, I regularly witness how the ADA can enable access to people with disabilities. When a student independently makes a transaction at an ATM using the braille labels and audio guidance, or when a student who uses a wheelchair spends the weekend hiking on accessible trails in Yosemite National Park, the positive impact and progress of 30 years under the ADA is undeniably evident. Unfortunately, this description of efficient disability inclusion is not the norm. Our physical environments are peppered with spaces that are almost accessible. Almost accessible means that people with disabilities are being excluded from spaces and events -- be it physical or digital. In other words, almost accessible is not accessible.
I think the ADA is at a starting point for respecting the spectrum of human ability. The standards were established on the principle that all humans possess value and are worthy of full dignity. Yet, disability prejudice keeps accessibility a low priority. I would like to see the companies focused on emerging technologies drive change in the transportation and education sector by incorporating ADA standards and inclusive design principles from the start of the design process. For everyone involved - educators, business owners, policymakers, service providers, and individuals with and without disabilities - let’s commit to co-designing communities that are consistently accessible and welcoming for all.
Dr. Jose Fierro, President/Superintendent, Cerritos College
“The ADA provides educational institutions such as Cerritos College with both the guidance and the weight of the law to ensure that no one discriminates against people with disabilities at our educational institutions. For our employees, students, and visitors at Cerritos College, this means that every one of us has equal access to all the services that we provide. The ADA allows us to take appropriate measures so that none of us are excluded or left behind. The ADA also empowers Cerritos College to foster a safe space for our students, where they are listened to and supported in ways that help them succeed. Regardless of differences, every student receives support services, instruction, and other accommodations as needed so that they can work toward their educational and professional goals without barriers.
As the entire world pivots to remote learning and working from home, it is more important than ever to be mindful that many websites and online documents remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. The right legislation, supported by technical standards, is a driver of accessibility, and there is room to grow in these areas so that companies and institutions can better provide equal access to all.”
Jaime Marso-Tanner, Manager of June Mountain Ski and Snowboard School, Board of Directors for PSIA-AASI Western Division
“When you think about accommodations for those with disabilities the first thing to pop into your mind is usually not snow skiing and snowboarding. The good news is, our chairlifts are capable of accommodating a variety of sit-skis, outriggers, and other adaptive ski devices providing persons with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy snow skiing. Working with individuals that require special access and accommodations in situations involving snow, ice, severe weather, and the personal safety of themselves and those around them can be more challenging than simply providing a ramp or handrail. I’m confident that my staff will not be afraid or anxious about providing help when it is requested of them. ADA taught me that although a disability can cause a person to require more time to master a task, our most important role is to be patient and respectful. For the future, it would be helpful if those trying their best to provide opportunities and access in the most difficult of situations (such as on a ski slope), could receive a little recognition because recognizing them encourages us all to do more when we know our efforts are acknowledged. Not all businesses have a plan for when accommodations cannot be successfully offered. I’ve found DSES, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra: https://disabledsportseasternsierra.org/ to be the perfect place to refer individuals when we’re unable to provide the accommodations needed at June Mountain. In the future I’d like to see ADA encourage non-profit organization providing adaptive sports and therapeutic outdoor recreation for people with disabilities. Keep up the outstanding work, and happy anniversary!”
Juan Garza, Bellflower
City of Bellflower Mayor, Business Owner of Six Heron, LLC
"I am proud to join in the 30th anniversary celebration of this milestone moment, not only because actualizes the overdue inclusion of our wider and contributing disabled community in our everyday lives, but also because it reflects the actualization of our rightful American ideals of equity and equality for all."
Don Lam, AIA, LEED AP, San Francisco
IA Interior Architects, Managing Principal
“Although when enacted, the initial response was that this would be yet another bureaucratic regulation to contend with when designing buildings and spaces people would occupy. However, with change comes opportunity and the implementation of the ADA was no different. From a design perspective, it required a new way of conceptualizing how individuals needed to access and experience a building or interior space. What was the user experience desired and how could we design in such a way that would make that experience accessible to all. It has been inspiring to see how the design community embraced this new regulation not as something that restricted our creativity rather as something that forced us to question who can, does and should be able to access the experience of the buildings and spaces we design. In terms of personal impacts, I’ve come to appreciate ADA more each year as there are increasingly more people that I am personally connected with whom benefit from increased accessibility requirements. Some pedestrian areas of California (SF specifically) are quite steep. Making cities more pedestrian friendly for everyone by having improved accessibility on public transportation might be one solution. A review of the current standards to ensure it addresses not only mobility challenges but also those with hearing and sight disability and those on the neurological spectrum would be a natural evolution to the existing policy. Potential consideration for technology implementation in public spaces such as touchless points of entry and/or digital screen technologies for the visually impaired.”
Michelle L. Bronson, Fresno
Executive Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center (social services)
“As a Deaf person who grew up before the ADA was passed, I had many classmates “sign” for me as I was mainstreamed in a public school. I also had college students who majored in Deaf Education “interpret” for me, but they were not certified interpreters. While I was grateful for these individuals who did their best to keep me connected with my hearing peers and teachers, it was not until later in my college years when I started working with professional, certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. I remember feeling shocked by the ease with which they kept up with instructors and classmates as they talked and the clarity of how they interpreted the information. My biggest concern at this time is AB1850 and how Sign Language Interpreters and Realtime Captioners are not currently included in the list of exemptions in AB5. If they are not kept as independent contractors, my access to communication may be greatly diminished because my communication needs, and those of my family members, are 24/7, 365 days a year. Another improvement I would like to see is increased usage of Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals with language challenges, from other countries, and those needing more visual access, with use of visual aids, gestures, drawings, etc.”