By Libby Smith

DENVER (CBS4) – The Americans with Disabilities Act is 30-years old this month. Signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, it was the first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities.

“It protects from discrimination in areas of public life,” said Emily Shuman, Deputy Director of the Rocky Mountain ADA Center in Colorado Springs.

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(credit CBS)

The law has gone a long way to even the playing field for people with disabilities in areas of access to buildings and government programs, as well as, protecting against discrimination in the work place. There is one area of modern life that this law doesn’t address.

“The ADA was passed in 1990, and that was a time when the internet didn’t really exist, at least not in the way that it does today. And the internet is the number one way that we’re connecting with each other, especially via social media. And so, we really need to see more regulation around accessibility in the digital space. The ADA didn’t really include any regulations for website accessibility, social media accessibility,” Shuman told CBS4’s Andrea Flores.

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The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is located in Colorado Springs, and serves most of the Western states. It’s one of 10 federally funded centers across the county. The main goal of the center is education, not enforcement. Workers there field technical assistance calls, they give out information, and they hold training and certification programs. In the midst of coronavirus, Shuman says that the center has been getting a lot of questions about mask wearing.

“What the ADA provides is the opportunity for the person with a disability to request a reasonable modification of a policy or procedure,” Shuman explained.

Governor Polis’s mandatory mask order does exempt those “individuals who medically can’t tolerate a face covering.” That may include people with respiratory illnesses, or those with skin sensitivity due to autism. But just because some people are exempt from the order, businesses don’t have to allow them into their stores without a mask.

“There are lots of ways to accommodate a person that don’t involve letting them in without a mask. That could be simply assisting them with their items and then bringing them to their car, allowing for a virtual appointment, having a person sit in their car until it’s time for their appointment, and having them come in. There are lots of ways that businesses can work with people with disabilities without having to put the health of themselves and their other patrons at risk,” Shuman said.

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LINK Rocky Mountain ADA Center

Libby Smith