On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), legislation that has changed millions of lives for the better.
Before that time it was hard to find a wheelchair ramp at any public building. Public transportation was largely inaccessible for people with physical disabilities. Many jobs were unattainable for disabled Americans.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 42.5 million Americans with disabilities. That’s roughly 13% of the U.S., population. The disabilities in this group include hearing, vision, cognitive, mobility, self-care or an inability to live independently.
July 26 has been declared National Disability Independence Day to celebrate the Americans who have made achievements, with the help of ADA.
Among the inspiring examples is Kyle Maynard, who was born with a condition that left him with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end near his knees. Not only did he learn to live independently, in 2012 he became the first quadruple amputee to climb 19,340 feet to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics.
Older Americans more likely to have a disability
According to the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, older Americans are much more likely to have a disability than young people. In fact, around 46% of Americans ages 75 and older and 24% of those ages 65 to 74 report having a disability.
That same survey shows the most common types of disability among the U.S. population involve mobility, independent living or cognition. Some 7% of Americans have serious ambulatory difficulties, such as struggling to walk or climb stairs.
Despite 33 years of advancements, advocates say there is more to be done. The Census Bureau reports people with disabilities earned a median income of $28,438 in 2021. That compares to $40,948 among those without a disability.