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The Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) is pleased to present our month-long blog series that will provide a brief history of significant disability policies, developments, and figures in the United States and Massachusetts throughout the past two centuries. Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 6 Section 15LLLLL, the month of October commemorates Disability History Month.  This observance is dedicated to“increase awareness and understanding of the contributions made by persons with disabilities.”  Last week, we posted Part Three: 1960-1990.

Welcome to Part Four: 1990-Present.  Since the monumental passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, Americans have witnessed the passage of further significant legislation which has impacted the lives of persons with disabilities. The importance of technology in daily life and employment has raised new issues in accessibility. The past twenty five years have also brought landmark Supreme Court rulings on disability and access issues.  As Americans celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA this year, disability advocates also understand there is work to be done yet.

Timeline: 1990-Present

1992: Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act stress employment as the primary goal of vocational rehabilitation (VR).[1] The Amendments order “presumptive employability,” and require that consumers be afforded increased control in defining their VR goals and other aspects of VR services.[2]

The first Youth Leadership Forum for youth with disabilities is held.

The U.S. Business Leadership Network is formed to lead the national movement to include disability as part of workplace inclusion/diversity initiatives.[3]

1995: Ed Roberts, the “Father of Independent Living” dies at age 56.

1996: The Telecommunications Act requires telecommunications manufacturers and providers to “ensure that equipment is designed, developed and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable.”[4]

1998: Section 508, part of the Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies to make electronic information technology accessible to persons with disabilities.

1999, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that segregation of people with disabilities is discriminatory when integration is an appropriate option in the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. decision.

The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act is signed with the aim of supporting Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries in transitioning to financial independence through employment.

2000: The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 are passed to improve services for people with developmental disabilities.

2001: Congress establishes the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to focus on disability within the context of federal labor policy.[5]

2001: The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries is launched.

2004: The Assistive Technology Act of 2004 reflects developments in technology and requires states to provide direct service to people with disabilities to ensure they have access to the technology they need.[6]

2008: The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 clarifies and broadens the definition of “disability,” facilitating enforcement of rights under the ADA.

2010: ADA Standards for Accessible Design create enforceable minimum accessibility standards for newly constructed or altered facilities.

President Obama signs the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) into law, updating federal communications law to increase the access to modern communications including new digital, broadband, and mobile innovations for persons with disabilities (Federal Communications Commission).

 2012: NBC agrees to air coverage of the Paralympic Games on U.S. television for the first time in history.[8]

2012: As part of a settlement of a lawsuit from a Massachusetts resident, Netflix announces plans to provide closed captioning on all streaming content.[9] A federal judge in Springfield, Massachusetts ruled that Netflix and similar online providers that serving the public are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), marking the first ruling to recognize that internet-based companies are covered under the ADA.[10]

2014: Father-son team Dick and Rick Hoyt run their final Boston Marathon. Since 1981, Dick had been pushing his son Rick’s wheelchair in the 26 mile race.[12]

The last resident of the Fernald Center in Waltham, MA was discharged on November 13 after 126 years of operation and controversy.[7]

From Sochi, the Paralympic Games are broadcast live for the first time in the U.S. with fifty hours of coverage.[13]

2015:  The Americans with Disabilities Act turns 25 and disability advocates across the nation celebrate, reflect, and look towards a future filled with new and ongoing challenges. An ADA 25 celebration is held in Boston Common on July 22nd.

Attendees of the ADA 25 Celebration gathered on Boston Common, Boston skyline in view.

ADA 25th Anniversary Celebration in Boston Common, July 22, 2015

Thank you for your interest in U.S. disability and for honoring Disability History Month with us. Please continue to read our blog for more disability-related content.

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[1] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” Retrieved 14 October 2015.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Sherman, Eli. “End of an era: Last resident leaves Fernald Center in Waltham.” Wicked Local Waltham. Retrieved 22 October 2015.

[8] Dumlao, Ros. The Denver Post. “U.S. Paralympics Finally Get TV Coverage on American Soil.” Retrieved 22 October 2015.

[9] Johnston, Katie. “Netflix reaches deal to end lawsuit over closed captioning of streamed movies, TV shows.” Retrieved 22 October 2015.

[10] Id.

[12] Pfeiffer, Sacha. WBUR. “One Last Boston Marathon For Legendary Father-Son Team.” Retrieved 22 October 2015.

[13] Maconi, Karen. U.S. Paralympics. “Top 13 of 2013: U.S. broadcast plan for Sochi 2014, Rio 2016 announced.” Retrieved 22 October 2015.

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