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Today, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke issued the following statements to mark the 31st Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the nation’s preeminent civil rights law that provides equal opportunity for people with disabilities.
“Thirty-one years ago today, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law with broad bipartisan support and it has been life-changing for people with disabilities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “It ushered in a new era of greater participation, inclusion, independent living and opportunity. The ADA has helped knock down discriminatory barriers in employment, state and local government programs, and businesses. That has made it possible for generations of Americans with disabilities to contribute to their communities and achieve their full potential. The Justice Department will keep working tirelessly — marshalling all tools made possible by this groundbreaking law — to realize the ADA’s promise of equal opportunity for all people with disabilities.”
“The ADA is one of our most transformative civil rights laws, helping to ensure that our schools, courthouses, townhalls, businesses and workplaces are open to all people, regardless of their disability status,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We know that much work remains to be done to achieve fully the goals underlying the ADA, but the department celebrates the progress that the ADA has made possible for millions of Americans, while continuing to fight for full access and opportunity for people with disabilities. This is the Civil Rights Division’s charge and this is our promise to every person with a disability across this country. We will not yield until the full measure of rights guaranteed by the ADA is a reality for all.”
This year, the Civil Rights Division has enforced the ADA to provide concrete changes in the lives of Americans with disabilities. The following are some examples of its work:
- The department recently secured a comprehensive settlement agreement with Amtrak that will provide equal access to rail travel for countless passengers with disabilities. Over the next 10 years, Amtrak will design at least 135 stations to be accessible, complete construction at 90 of those stations, and have at least 45 more under construction. Amtrak is also installing Passenger Information Display Systems to provide both audio and visual messages at 97 stations, which will benefit riders with vision or hearing disabilities. Amtrak also established a $2.25 million settlement fund to compensate people who were harmed by inaccessible stations while trying to travel by train.
- The department recently entered into a significant settlement agreement with North Dakota, a statewide agreement that will ensure adults with physical disabilities can receive community-based services instead of entering or remaining in nursing facilities. Under the agreement, more than 2,500 people with disabilities will receive services that will help them remain with their families and communities, while still receiving the care that they need.
- The department entered into a settlement agreement with Newton County, Arkansas and the Newton County Board of Elections to address polling place accessibility for people with disabilities. As part of its investigation, the department surveyed the county courthouse used for early voting and all 18 of the polling places used during the election. The County’s polling places contained architectural barriers and lacked functioning, accessible voting machines. The department’s agreement requires the County and the Board to provide accessible polling places. Through the department’s ADA Voting Initiative, we have surveyed over 2,400 polling places and increased polling place accessibility in over 50 jurisdictions.
- The department’s recent settlement agreements with the City of Killeen and Central Texas College of Killeen are removing physical barriers to accessibility. For example, the college is working to make parking, entrances, restrooms, service counters, drinking fountains and routes to and within buildings accessible to people with disabilities. It is also providing the required wheelchair and companion seating in assembly areas, such as auditoriums. The city is taking similar steps to make buildings accessible, including its City Hall, police stations, libraries, community centers and emergency shelters. The city is also improving communication services for individuals with hearing disabilities, enhancing website accessibility and implementing a plan for sidewalk accessibility.
For more information about the ADA, please visit www.ada.gov or call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383). For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt.
The Attorney General’s video marking the 31st Anniversary can be found here.
Updated July 26, 2021