On July 26, 2020, America celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a landmark civil rights act that improves access, opportunity, and conditions for individuals with disabilities in the spaces of education, employment, public services, transportation, as well as information and communication technology. The ADA’s passing was a watershed moment for the nearly 61 million Americans with disabilities1 and their families; however, every person in the United States, not only people with disabilities, benefits from this legislation. Prior to the ADA’s enactment, people with disabilities were denied equity of opportunity because of stereotypes, labels and systemic barriers. As a result of the ADA and the tireless efforts of disability rights activists, this country now strives to embrace disability, recognizing that disability does not diminish an individual’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society.
While progress has been made in the last 30 years, there is still much work to be done. Health inequities persist for people with disabilities, who continue to face significant health disparities compared to people who do not have disabilities. Adults with disabilities are three times more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer than adults without disabilities.2 As we commemorate the ADA’s milestone anniversary and work to ensure that people with disabilities have access to quality health care services and information, we must keep in mind the legislation’s goals: equity of opportunity, full participation, economic self-sufficiency, and independent living for people with disabilities.
Every individual with a disability is an integral member of the dental education community and deserving of equitable opportunities and experiences. In these trying times, as campuses manage the effects and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and focus on reopening in the fall, it is important to be flexible and vigilant in the spirit of the ADA, ensuring that all students, staff, faculty and the patients they serve are guaranteed equitable access to dental education services and programs.
For more information about the ADA’s 30th anniversary, please visit the ADA 30 Years website.
1 Infographic. “Disability Impacts All of Us” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/documents/disabilities_impacts_all_of_us.pdf. (Accessed: Aug. 6, 2020)
2 “The 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 July 2020, www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0724-30th-anniversary-disabilities-act.html. Press release. (Accessed: Aug. 6, 2020)
Published on September 9, 2020