The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition
Long Road to Justice: The Civil Rights Division at 50

Ensure Compliance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA)

In 1990, Congress enacted the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), and the Disability Rights Section is now one of the largest sections within the Civil Rights Division. Since 1990, the Section has brought suits to remove architectural and other barriers and ensure access to public accommodations (including all hotels, retail stores, restaurants, and places of recreation) and public transportation for person with disabilities, litigated against state and local governments, certified state and local building codes to ensure compliance with the ADA standards for accessible design, and instituted an extensive mediation program to promote voluntary compliance with the ADA.

The disability rights activities of the Division have historically enjoyed bipartisan support under Attorneys General Richard Thornburgh and Janet Reno. In recent years, the Civil Rights Division launched a successful "ADA Business Connection" series of forums designed to bring together business leaders and disability advocates to build a stronger business case for accessibility and disability as a diversity issue.

Moving forward, the Department will need to show leadership in making the judicial and the executive branches of the federal government true models of how to conduct the business of justice and government in a manner that is accessible and welcoming for all people. The federal government can and should do more to measure its compliance with accessibility requirements and to address deficiencies on a systematic basis. Enforcement of civil rights requirements is especially needed in the areas of access to higher education and access to voting, as widespread noncompliance with accessibility requirements exists in both of these important areas. There is also a need for stronger leadership on the issue of access to long-term services in non-segregated settings for people with significant disabilities.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has questioned the history of unconstitutional discrimination against people with disabilities by the States and has whittled away at the scope of the protected class in the ADA. In the years to come, disability advocates look forward to strong leadership from the Department of Justice to help stem the tide of Supreme Court federalism that has restricted disability rights.

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