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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-15-005    Date:  July/August 2015
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-15-005
Issue No: Vol. 79 No. 1
Date: July/August 2015


Guest Editorial

The ADA at 25: Still Under Construction

Photo. Headshot of Warren Whitlock, FHWA Associate Administrator for Civil Rights.
Warren Whitlock
Photo. Headshot of Walter “Butch” Waidelich, FHWA Associate Administrator for Infrastructure.
Butch Waidelich
Have you ever had an injury or surgery that required you to use crutches or a wheelchair during recovery? Do you have an aging parent with a disability who relies on assistive technology for vision, hearing, or mobility to maintain his or her independence? Or maybe you, a friend, or a family member has a permanent disability that makes some aspect of independent living a challenge? Most people answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, because everyone is likely to have a disability at some point, whether temporary or permanent.

When Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 25 years ago, its intent was to enable persons with disabilities to “compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities” available to persons without disabilities. This milestone anniversary provides an opportunity not only to celebrate the achievements made in advancing accessibility since the groundbreaking law passed, but also to reflect on the future of disability in America. How should public entities respond to emerging challenges?

As many as 56.7 million people in the United States report having some of type of disability, and that number is likely to grow over the next 25 years. People are living longer and surviving injuries and conditions that used to be fatal.

In passing the ADA and subsequent amendments, Congress recognized that “physical and mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society.” But, reads the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, “people with physical or mental disabilities are frequently precluded from doing so because of prejudice, antiquated attitudes, or the failure to remove societal and institutionalbarriers.”

The ability to make social and economic contributions often is limited by an individual’s ability to travel. For example, most people have to travel to their places of employment, and need to arrive there reliably and safely. Some also may have to travel as part of their jobs, or to attend school or community meetings, sporting events, cultural outings, religious gatherings, and the homes of family and friends. Persons with disabilities have the same needs, and the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration play a role in making sure that transportation systems are accessible to everyone.

Sidewalks, curb ramps, street crossings, signal technologies, intersection designs, and transit stops are some of the many features in the public right-of-way that transportation agencies and infrastructure owners can improve to better function for people of all abilities. Although State and local entities have made significant progress since passage of the legislation, many opportunities for improvements remain. For more on progress at all levels of government to advance the goals of the ADA, see “Access for All” on page 10 in this issue of Public Roads. For more information on the ADA and other accessibility resources, visit FHWA’s Accessibility Resource Library at www.fhwa.dot.gov/accessibility.

USDOT is committed to removing barriers to accessibility to create ladders of opportunity that connect everyone to jobs, schools, and a better quality of life.

Warren Whitlock
FHWA Associate Administrator for
Civil Rights

Walter “Butch” Waidelich
FHWA Associate Administrator for



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