The Americans with Disabilities Act: What is it?

According to its website, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that became effective on July 26, 1990 in order to give equal opportunities to individuals with disabilities. It is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits “discrimination and ensur[es] equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation” and telecommunications.

George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. Source:

Title II of ADA prohibits public entities—including state and local governments— from discrimination on the basis of disability. It states that persons with disabilities may not be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any public entity. The act requires all public facilities and services to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, and addresses barriers to community services, transportation, and facilities.

Complete Communities allow for inclusive and active engagement of people of all ages and all abilities, regardless of their physical, ambulatory and/or low-vision limitations. Not only is compliance with ADA mandated by law, but public entities need to provide reasonable accommodations to people with a range of abilities to ensure equal access to government services, shopping, transportation, and facilities, as well as cultural, social, and recreational activities.

According to a 2012 United States Census Bureau Report on Americans with Disabilities, approximately 56.7 million people living in the U.S. had some type of disability in 2010, which represented about 19 percent of the non-institutionalized population. According to this report, the prevalence of disabilities increases with age.

Graph showing the percent of people with disabilities by age in 2010.The 2010 American Community Survey (ACS), estimates that there are 108,444 Delawareans with disabilities. The prevalence rate varies widely by age group: 31% for individuals 65 and over, 10.9% for those 18-64, and 4.4% for those under 18. It is estimated that by 2040, 30% of Delaware’s population will be over 60. A report issued by the Delaware State Housing Authority Delaware State Housing Authority states that individuals with any disability are projected to increase from 13.1% of Delaware’s population in 2010 to 16.8% of the population in 2040. Therefore, it is extremely important to ensure that government services, programs, facilities, and activities are accessible to and accommodate persons with disabilities.




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