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On the 20th Anniversary of the ADA-What Has Happened Since 1990?

Yesterday was a milestone in the history of America–the 20th Anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It took place in 1990. Come to think of it–what did we as deaf and hard of hearing people have today that we did not have in 1990…let Dr. Z point some of these things out, to give you a better appreciation of the impact of this law and related laws since then…

Relay Services

1990-All relay services were voluntary, provided by church organizations and community-based organizations. We often had to wait as long as half an hour to make a relay call

2010-We have the best–video relay services, with a wide range of devices; text relay services (TTY and IP-Relay); CapTel for the hard of hearing. The relay services have a strong funding base, both on the state level for text relay and CapTel and on the federal level for VRS, CapTel and IP-Relay


1990-Captioning was offered on a limited basis, primarily only for evening hours, educational and news programs almost non-existent for cable TV. Funding provided by the federal government with some self funding by the TV industry. Very little video (VHS) captioning was available; we needed a set-top decoder to be attached to our TV to watch programs with captions

2010-Captioning is mandatory (regulated by the FCC) for broadcast and cable TV with some small exceptions (this was made possible by the Telecommunications Act of 1996); all TV sets 13″ or larger are required to have built-in decoders (made possible by the TV Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990)

Mobile Communications

1990-Nothing (non-existent)

2010-Blackberry, iPhone, Sidekick and now with video relay via mobile phones on the iPhone 4


1990-Some interpreters were available, but they were hard to get, because few were willing to pay

2010-Things are getting better, but still not perfect–we still have to educate the public on interpreters

American Sign Language

1990-Just beginning to understand it as a real language, with a cultural basis

2010-Respect for it as a full language and cultural basis

The list goes on and on–with yesterday’s passage of HR 3101 by the House, President Obama’s Executive Orders and Proposed Rules Issued by the Justice Department, a very involved and aware FCC and other technological developments–who knows what the next 5 years will bring us?

Two words: MORE ACCESS!!

Happy 20th Birthday ADA!

Dr. Z cares about your communication access.

Disclosure: Dr. Z is a contractor working with CSDVRS on several projects.

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