The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Turns 32

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Turns 32

by Kristine Custodio Suero, ACP

August 2022

“Inclusivity means not ‘just we’re allowed to be there,’ but we are valued. I’ve always said: smart teams will do amazing things, but truly diverse teams will do impossible things.”

-Claudia Brind-Woody

The April 2022 NALA DEI article featured Samantha Burns who shared her experience as a deaf paralegal. Samantha encouraged us to take time to read the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to promote inclusivity and equal access for deaf paralegals such as using live transcriptions. On the heels of the 32nd anniversary of the ADA, this month’s DEI article will provide a brief summary and additional resources about the ADA.

Did you know that the ADA was signed into law 32 years ago on July 26, 1990?  According to the ADA National Network website the ADA is a civil rights law that: “…prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.”

The five titles include the following:

  • Title I (Employment) – Equal Employment Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities
  • Title II (State and Local Government) – Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services
  • Title III (Public Accommodations) – Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities
  • Title IV (Telecommunications)
  • Title V (Miscellaneous Provisions)

But what exactly is the definition of disability? The ADA National Network website states: “The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.”

As our NALA President Debbie Overstreet, ACP emphasized in her installation speech at the 2022 Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, where she referenced the DEI article sharing Samantha’s experiences as a deaf paralegal, we as an association must strive towards inclusion of all paralegals and educate ourselves about others’ experiences. With Debbie’s vision of an even more inclusive association and the goals of the NALA DEI Committee, including celebrating the diversity of its members and leaders and strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, all are welcomed and valued.

Learning about the ADA will not only help NALA to be an even more inclusive association, it will help our members to be better paralegals, co-workers, friends, and neighbors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are 61 million adults in the United States who live with a disability—that is nearly 1 in 4 Americans. Let that sink in for a moment. Then, think about what you can do as an individual to promote equal access by others impacted by a disability.

Click here to download an Overview of ADA and for additional ADA National Network Publications, please visit the following websites: