Celebrating the 32nd Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

disability pride flag
The Disability Pride Flag, designed by Ann Magill.

July 26, 2022 is the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunities. President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26th, 1990, and 25 years later, New York City observed the first Disability Pride Month. Disability Pride Month is now observed nationally during the month of July and is considered a time to celebrate diversity and reflect on strides made towards equity, and what is still to come. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act 

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities from discrimination and guarantees that they are given equal opportunities. Its overall purpose is to make “American society more accessible to people with disabilities.” The ADA is considered an “equal opportunity law” for people with disabilities.

ADA Functions & Protections 

The act itself is split into 5 main titles: employment, public services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and the title of miscellaneous. In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) was passed to broaden the definition of “disability” in order to protect more people. To receive protection from the ADA, one must meet the ADA definition of disability. According to the ADA, an individual has a disability if they:

  1. Have a mental or physical impairment that limits one (or more) major life activities; 
  2. Have a record of having the impairment; or
  3. Are perceived by others as having the impairment.

Thanks to the ADAAA, parents of those who have a disability and people who are retaliated against for assisting a person with disability are now protected.

The Disability Community

While “people with disabilities” technically only describes a single group, the truth is, the people with disabilities community is a highly diverse one. Disabilities can manifest differently in each person, and there are also disabilities that are hidden or difficult to see. There is a wide range of possible disabilities, and the ADA considers the list of disabilities in the act nonexhaustive. Therefore, as new disabilities are formally recognized, those too are covered under the act.

This diverse community is quite large, as well. According to a CDC report, there were 61 million Americans living with a disability in 2016, nearly 19% of Americans. Mobility and cognition are the 2 highest forms of disability in the United States. Disabilities disproportionately impact adults ages 65 or older (2 in 5), women (1 in 4), and Non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Native (2 in 5).  


People with disabilities are often met by systems that were not originally built to accommodate every type of person. These systems include the health care system, the criminal justice system, the employment sector, and the educational system.

Health Care

People with disabilities are less likely to receive adequate health care—or receive care at all. Health professionals often harbor unconscious bias against people with disabilities, which can determine the quality of care those patients receive. On the same note, if a person has a secondary condition they are even less likely to receive care.

Justice System

Of those incarcerated in the United States, 2 in 5 state and federal prisoners have at least one disability. State and federal prisoners were more than 2 times more likely to report a disability than the general population. 


Though the ADA prohibits discrimination in employment, people with disabilities are much less likely to be employed than those without. According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 10.4% in 2021, twice that of those without disabilities. 

Celebration and Reflection

Disability Pride Month celebrates the diverse community of people with disabilities and their ability to reject shame and internalized hate, and instead embracing their disabilities as a part of who they are. The month is a chance for members of the disability community to come together, celebrate past progress, and uplift each other positively.

Though Disability Pride Month is a time to celebrate, it is also a time to reflect on the progress that has occurred and acknowledge the work that still lies ahead. While the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act legally prohibits discrimination for people with disabilities, there is still a long road ahead to achieving true equity. 

Click here to learn more about the history of Americans with disabilities. 

This blog was written by STM Learning’s editorial staff for educational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific medical or legal advice. For expert information on the discussed subjects, please refer to STM Learning’s publications.


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