2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA embodies—and makes enforceable—this nation’s promise of full access to nonprofit organizations, businesses that serve the public, state and local governments, transportation, employment and telecommunications. This anniversary brings new, expanded ADA regulations— and also prompts us to reflect on whether we are meeting our responsibilities to people with disabilities.
People with disabilities comprise more than 19 percent of the people living in the United States—representing a segment of the population that is larger than any ethnic, racial or cultural minority group in the United States. Those who have disabilities include people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, ages and sexual orientations.
The ADA requires most nonprofits to provide equal access to services. It applies to an organization whether it offers performing arts programs to the public or works to prevent homelessness and hunger. It applies to a nonprofit whether it provides mental or physical health care or promotes wellness or community development. It applies whether your group strives to improve education or offers a food pantry or thrift shop for the public.
The first major revisions to the original 1991 Department of Justice regulations have been in place since September 2010, with new accessibility standards and more detailed policy provisions. All nonprofits should review and evaluate their obligations and renew their efforts to offer full and equal access to people with disabilities in light of these requirements.