Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the ADA
On July 26th 2020, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) will mark its 30th anniversary. This historic legislation was enacted to create a more inclusive society in the United States. The ADA legislation gave individuals with disabilities the right to engage in their communities, both socially and professionally, by providing equal access to employment, public service, public accommodations, and telecommunications.
The IDEA Center and the ADA
Since 1984, the IDEA Center has been working to make environments and products more usable, safer, and healthier. Over the past 35 years, the Center has produced knowledge and tools that that have increased social participation for individuals, like people with disabilities and older adults, who have been marginalized by traditional design practices. Many of the Center’s research activities throughout the years have had a direct impact on shaping the revisions to the ADA’s accessibility codes and standards.
The Center Director, Edward Steinfeld, is a member of the committee that develops and revises the ICC/ANSI A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities, the consensus standard on accessibility referenced by building codes in the U.S. He was the secretary of that committee from 1974 through 1980. During that time, he directed the first systematic research on accessibility in the U.S. and organized the first major revision of the standard expanding it from 7 pages to over 70 pages, including the addition of housing requirements. This work became the basis for the first ADA Accessibility Guidelines in 1994.
From 1999 until 2010, the IDEA Center conducted a major study on anthropometry of wheeled mobility users that has led to revisions to building codes in the U.S., Canada, and Ireland. Through our Accessibility Consulting Service, Center staff have evaluated the accessibility of hundreds of buildings and facilities for private developers, state agencies, and attorneys representing plaintiffs and defendants in lawsuits. The Center also conducts training for architects, developers, and advocates on accessibility laws and standards. These activities have helped increase the standard of living for thousands of people with disabilities and continue to advance knowledge in this field.