WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, NOW is proud to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a critical civil rights law guaranteeing non-discrimination protections to people with disabilities in all areas of public life. Signed into law on July 26, 1990, the ADA served as an important milestone for the rights of people with disabilities in our country, who deserve to live their lives free from fear of discrimination and hate, and with equal access to the systems and services that benefit non-disabled people.
However, as feminists and activists we know that it is difficult to legislate away structural oppression, and there are still many systemic inequities limiting the full agency and freedom of people with disabilities. In the way the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to attention the depth of racial inequity in our nation, it has also highlighted the ineffectiveness of our systems when it comes to care for people with disabilities.
It’s estimated that 36 million women in the U.S. have a disability and 60% of Americans have at least one chronic health condition. Coronavirus poses a threat to all of us, but for people with disabilities there is an added risk of not being able to access regular necessary care because of reduced hospital capacity, PPE shortages, and other issues facing our health care system.
We must advocate for disability rights in all our work as intersectional feminists. Too many of our systems and policies are controlled by non-disabled people, meaning that we must actively look at the way our core issues impact women with disabilities differently and look to the work of disability justice advocates in our community. The ADA affords many protections to people with disabilities, but we know that there is much more to be done to ensure that our nation’s systems and services are truly accessible to all.