This year, July 26 marks the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA was signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
The ADA is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all aspects of their public life. This includes, but is not limited to, jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The ADA works much like the civil rights provided to people based on race, sex, color, religion, age, and more.
There are five sections to the ADA to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities throughout many aspects of life. They are:
Employment (Title I)
This section of the ADA helps people with disabilities have the same employment opportunities and benefits as others. It ensures employers make reasonable accommodations for qualified job applicants or employees with disabilities so they can carry out their job without too much difficulty to their employer.
State and Local Government (Title II)
Much like the ADA as a whole, the state and local government title prohibits state and local government agencies from discriminating against someone because of their disability. This section requires state and local government agencies to make their programs and services accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Public Accomodations (Title III)
Title III protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination at public places like retail stores, restaurants, hotels, schools, movie theathers and many others. For existing public buildings, barriers limiting ADA access must be removed. For new buildings, accessibility standards must be met. Businesses are expected to make modifications when serving people with disabilities as well as have alternate methods to communicate effectively if someone has a speech, hearing or vision impairment.
Telecommunications (Title IIII)
The telecommunications section of the ADA focuses on individuals with hearing or speech disabilities. It requires phone and Internet companies to provide services that allow those with hearing or speech difficulties to be able to communicate over the telephone, like text-to-speech technology. It also requires closed captioning on televisions of federally funded public service announcements.
Miscellaneous Provisions (Title IV)
The final title of the ADA relates to the ADA as a whole, in a variety of ways. A list of conditions that are not considered a disability are provided under this title. Information about how the ADA relates to other laws, state immunity, insurance companies and benefits, among other things, is included as well.
To learn more about the specific titles of the ADA, click here. The passing of the ADA was a monumental moment for people with disabilities. It made a huge impact on inclusion, but like many laws there was room for improvement.
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act
In 2008, former President George W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) into law, making it effective January 1, 2009. This amendment to the ADA made changes to what was defined as a disability. The change meant broader coverage for individuals that would be protected under the ADA. It also rejected holdings in several Supreme Court decisions.
The ADA and Service Animals
While the ADA supports and protects individuals with disabilities, W.A.G.S. 4 Kids has an amplified interest in how it covers individuals with service animals.
On September 15, 2010, U.S. Department of Justice published revised final regulations for Title II and Title III of the ADA. Those revisions took effect on March 15, 2011 meaning only dogs were recognized as service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA and described a service dog as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” It also mandated that in general, businesses or entities that fall under Title II or Title III of the ADA allow service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities so long as the animal is under control.
The ADA and ADAAA are so important for all individuals with disabilities, but especially so for the children we serve through the W.A.G.S. 4 Kids program. The protection under the ADA and the right to have service dogs in public places has benefitted many of our W.A.G.S. 4 Kids children.
A number of the kids have been able to attend school successfully due to the task-trained assistance of their service dog, much like how service dog Howie helped Morgan on to the school bus and through the halls to her classroom.
Morgan and Howie getting on the school bus.
Robbie’s family was able to take a mini family vacation to Cedar Point – a place they could have never visited before due to Robbie’s sensory sensitivity – because service dog Cupcake (known as CeeCee) helped Robbie to interrupt STIM behaviors that would have made the visit nearly impossible in the past. He was even able to attend the 2018 W.A.G.S. Wonder Run 5K, another noisy event, with “CeeCee” by his side.
Robbie (front, center) with "CeeCee" and friends/family at the 2018 Wonder Run
TuYen was able to enjoy 30 samples of Cleveland’s tastiest mac ‘n’ cheese at the 2019 SMART Local 33 Mac ‘n’ Cheese Throwdown with service dog Noah helping to steady her walk, navigating her through a crowd of 2,000 other hungry event attendees.
TuYen with Noah at the 2019 SMART Local 33 Mac 'n' Cheese Throwdown
All of these W.A.G.S. 4 Kids children – and countless others – are able to live their most joyful lives because of the ADA and it’s rights and protections for them being allowed to have their service animals with them in public places.
These days, it’s not uncommon to see a news story of a business that turned away a patron because they had a dog with them. This stems from the rise of individuals with emotional support animals, which are not to be confused with service animals. Therapy dogs can often be thrown into the mix, too. Only service dogs are covered under the ADA. Individuals with disabilities have the right to bring their service animals into public places. Unlike emotional support or therapy dogs, service dogs are specifically task trained to assist just one person. Education and awareness are key in knowing the difference between these three categories and preventing unfortunate situations. You can learn more about the ADA and service animals here.
Overall, the ADA and ADAAA have created so many more opportunities for those living with disabilities. It allows those individuals to live more independent lives, and that is something we at W.A.G.S. 4 Kids appreciate and strive to help them do as well with the help of their skillfully trained service dog. Because of the ADA and our unique “Step By Step” service dog training program, we can continue “Growing Possibilities, One Child at a Time.”