July 26th, 2010 | Published in Google Public Policy
Bending, walking, breathing, hearing, seeing and sleeping are simple things that are often taken for granted, as are thinking, learning, and communicating.
Twenty years ago today, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. This milestone legislation bans persons or companies from discriminating against anyone with limited abilities. It’s hard to imagine a world in which the right to participate in activities commonly enjoyed by the bulk of the population are denied or inadequately accommodated, but that was the case before ADA.
The efforts of the advocates who came to Washington two decades ago to rally for their civil rights has transformed so much of the modern world around us. As someone who’s worn hearing aids since I was 13, for example, I very much appreciate that most television programs and DVDs or Blu-Ray disks are captioned. On my way home, I might pass through a door that I know is wide enough for a wheelchair -- because the ADA set the building codes that require it. I see service animals on the DC Metro, accessible checkout aisles at my grocery store, ramps on sidewalks, and designated parking in movie theater lots: all there because of the important provisions included in the ADA.
Whereas the ADA set legal standards for ensuring equal rights for Americans with disabilities, Google is keenly aware that technology can help all users better enjoy the world around them. From opening millions of titles of printed content to persons with visual impairments through Google Book Search, to providing ready and easy-to-use captions on YouTube, to including a built in screenreader and a text-to-speech engine in Android, to introducing new extensions on Chrome to make online text easier to read, we’re serious about honoring our mission to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful. You can keep up with our progress at www.google.com/accessibility.
Congratulations to all those who work to make the ADA a living, breathing reality; for all the years I’ve been working on policy in Washington, it’s still rare to see a law that has had as positive and fundamental an influence on our lives as this Act. There still is work to be done to meet the goals of ADA, and we are committed to doing our part.