Landmark law built on decades of advocacy, previous legislation

On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Modeled on the Civil Rights Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA stems from collective efforts by advocates in the preceding decades and is the most comprehensive disability rights legislation in history. Its employment provisions prohibit discrimination in job application procedures, hiring, advancement and termination and provide for equal access to workers' compensation; job training; and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

The U.S. Department of Labor has posted a timeline Commemorating 25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including text and images of subsequent legislation, regulations, and events.

Most fascinating are the prior activities, dating back to June 2, 1920, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Fess Act into law. Also known as the Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act, the Smith-Fess Act established the Vocational Rehabilitation program for Americans with disabilities. It was modeled on an earlier law that provided for the rehabilitation of World War I veterans with disabilities. At that point, only individuals with physical disabilities were eligible for services.