Celebrating Twenty-Nine Years of the ADA

Two men sit at a desk facing computer screens with code on them.

Celebrating Twenty-Nine Years of the ADA

On this twenty-ninth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), members of the National Federation of the Blind celebrate the positive impact this landmark civil rights legislation has had on improving the lives of not only people with disabilities, but all Americans.

Through promoting awareness of the capacity of people with disabilities, and by providing a vehicle that enforces access to the public programs, information, and services that those without disabilities may take for granted, the ADA assists us to live the lives we want.

The NFB has gained an international reputation as an accessibility advocate in a manner that demonstrates the business case for accessibility. After all, making products and services accessible enhances the experience and utility for everyone, and when done correctly, does not add additional cost or complexity to the development process.

We take pride in developing partnerships that leverage our expertise in nonvisual accessibility with the innovators of everyday products and next-generation technologies. Despite this fact, our reputation as litigators sometimes gets more attention than our reputation as good partners. In reality, we use litigation as a last resort, and we are strategic with this course of action.

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of lawsuits being brought under the ADA that do not truly ensure compliance, commonly referred to as “click-by lawsuits.” As we assert in Resolution 2019-09: Regarding ADA Litigation, which was passed at our national convention this summer, these lawsuits exploit the real issue of accessibility as litigators file large groups of lawsuits all at once. The approach is unhelpful because these suits tend to settle quickly, confidentially, and without accountability. Educating businesses about accessibility is many times a much better strategy.

Our goal is to move past compliance and toward excellence, and that is why we are working to highlight our partnerships through initiatives such as our Strategic Nonvisual Accessibility Partnership (SNAP) program, which works to ensure that websites, products, and services are accessible by developing partnerships with organizations—and assisting them with infusing accessibility into their corporate culture. Similarly, our Accessibility Switchboard provides freely available resources and guides for those who want to improve accessibility in their organizations. We also offer regular workshops presented by our access technology experts that delve into accessibility best practices and the latest trends in access tech.

In the end, the National Federation of the Blind recognizes that we can live up to the ideals and policies set forth through the ADA twenty-nine years ago—and achieve so much more in improving the lives of people with disabilities, as well as all Americans—through meaningful, collaborative relationships.

—Anil Lewis