Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the ADA

July 30, 2020

But a lot still needs to be done!

Portulans Institute joins the world in commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA formally established the civil rights of persons with disabilities in the United States. And since the passage of this civil rights law in 1990, it has undoubtedly increased access and opportunity for the 61 million people with some form of disability across America. The act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and has driven progress in many aspects of economic and social inclusion since its passage.

While the ADA has been transformative, we have a long way to go to reach its goal of 100% inclusion. Data from the 2020 Global Talent Competitiveness Index states that the United States is in the top three in four different pillars (Enable (3rd), Grow (1st), Vocational and Technical Skills (1st), and Global Knowledge Skills (2nd). Imagine if the United States were able to include even more people with disabilities in its economy, how would that shape the Index and US’s position in it?[1]

Digital transformation, especially e-government, has often supported the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the economy. But while technology has the potential to create a more inclusive future, it can easily create new barriers without inclusive design and policy incentives.

With technology so embedded in our lives, digital accessibility must be a right for everyone. For instance, and unlike European countries[2], while US government websites must meet certain accessibility requirements under federal workplace law, there are no codified and enforceable ADA legal standards for accessibility of private sector websites.

Further, it is notable that the ADA served as a reference point for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Beyond the US, one billion people worldwide—15% of the world population— experience some form of disability. The ADA and CRPD provide a foundation for the rights of a population that continues to grow as a result of age-acquired disabilities and the consequences of natural and man-made disasters.

Here at the Portulans Institute, our Senior Fellow, Shane Kanady is leading our Community of Practice on the global inclusion of persons with disabilities. This work will offer a greater understanding of how the disability community can contribute to global economic competitiveness and health, and innovation through the power of human potential. We need to realize the ADA’s vision and fully open entrepreneurial spaces to the one in four Americans living with a disability.



[1]  Working-age people in the U.S. with disabilities have a disposable income of $490 billion. Read more here: The high cost of exclusion and what we need to do about it.
[2] The 2019 European Accessibility Act covers both private and public institutions and has resulted in websites being human-centered, and with an inclusive design focus.

Connect with Portulans Institute

twitter portulans institute linkedin portulans institute instagram portulans institute youtube portulans institute