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Good News: The ADA Turns 30

By Manna Zel

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, four months after disability rights activists took to the U.S. Capitol Building in a protest known as the Capitol Crawl [Editor’s note: If you’re in need of educational entertainment this week, I highly recommend watching the Barack and Michelle Obama-produced documentary Crip Camp for an archival footage-filled look at what it took to get the act passed]. Leaving behind their mobility aids, sixty protestors made their way up the 78 Capitol steps. In the ADA Legacy Project, which magnifies the ADA’s effect on disability rights, an entry reads, “This protest, that came to be known as the ‘Capitol Crawl,’ was intended to openly illustrate the struggles that people in the disabilities communities faced and spurred Congress to pass the ADA… Together, the march and the crawl comprised one of the largest disability direct actions to date.”

Expanding on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of disability in areas like employment, communications, transportation, access to government programs and services, and public accommodations like restaurants, hotels, and stores. In the thirty years since the ADA was passed, legislation like the 1998 Telecommunications Act and the 2004 amendments to the Assistive Technology Act have passed, too—making computers, telephones, and closed captions more accessible and providing assistive technology and support for individuals with disabilities to participate in education and employment.

This month, on the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we’re highlighting impactful wins—large and small. From a college student creating masks for deaf and hard of hearing communities to Colorado’s protection of LGBTQ+ folks, keep reading for ten good news headlines from summer 2020.

April 2, 2020: College Student Sews Face Masks Designed for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community (CBS News)

Ashley Lawrence’s homemade masks were created to fill a need she didn’t see. Lawrence, a college senior studying deaf education at Eastern Kentucky University, began crafting face masks with transparent screens, which allow those who are deaf or hard of hearing to read the lips and facial expressions of others. 

May 26, 2020: People With Special Needs Create Largest Open-Air Museum (A Plus)

In Ciudad Real, Spain, artist Okuda San Miguel began creating art out of abandoned silos, employing local artists with special needs. To do so, he partnered with Laborvalia, an organization that pairs people with intellectual disabilities and work opportunities. The project, Titanes, has become the world’s largest open-air museum. According to A Plus, San Miguel and his team will next convert the silos’ interiors into churches for people of all religions, genders, and races. 

June 29, 2020: Atlanta Hawks Arena To Host Voting Site, Team Challenges Rest Of NBA To Follow (NPR)

After the June 9 Georgia primary left Atlanta voters in long lines and at the mercy of faulty voting machines, the Atlanta Hawks designated their arena as an early voting site. Hundreds of arena staff will serve as trained, volunteer poll workers and voters will be able to park for free in the area. The 700,000-square-foot State Farm Arena can hold up to 21,000 people, leaving ample room for voters and volunteers to social distance on the arena floor. “We aim to be a community asset, and in order to fulfill that goal, we need to be more than just a basketball team,” Steve Koonin, the Hawks’ CEO, told NPR. “We’ll utilize our arena for all aspects of voting.”

July 8, 2020: The City of Sydney Now Runs on 100% Renewable Energy (Global Citizen)

The City of Sydney has reached the most substantial green energy agreement in Australia. Now, Sydney’s central business district and surrounding suburbs are going to be powered by one wind farm and two solar farms. All properties owned by the City of Sydney—115 buildings, 75 parks, 23,000 streetlights, and more—will now be sustained by 100% renewable energy and positions the City to prevent 200,000 tons of CO2 emissions from reaching the atmosphere over the next 10 years. In a press release, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore wrote, “We are in the middle of a climate emergency. If we are to reduce emissions and grow the green power sector, all levels of government must urgently transition to renewable energy. Cities are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, so it is critical that we take effective and evidence-based climate actions.”

July 8, 2020: Vermont Is First State To Ban Throwing Food Scraps Into The Trash (HuffPost)

“If it was once part of something alive, like a plant or animal, it does not belong in the landfill,” Vermont state officials announced, recently putting forth legislation that bans residents, restaurants, and other businesses from putting food scraps in waste bins. Vermont residents must now store items like leaves, cut grass, peels, rinds, eggshells, leftovers, and coffee grinds separately. They can compost the items on their own, take them to a facility that will compost them, or hire a third-party composting company. While cities like San Francisco and Seattle have adopted similar policies, Vermont is the first state to do so.

July 10, 2020: Wild Bison Return to UK for First Time in 6,000 Years (The Guardian)

In spring 2022, a small herd of bison will be released in Kent—their first return to the United Kingdom in 6,000 years. In the initial release of the £1m project, one male and three female bison will be released into Kent wildlife from the Netherlands or Poland. According to The Guardian, bison are considered “ecosystem engineers,” meaning they help modify or maintain their habitat. To Paul Hadaway of Kent Wildlife Trust, the organization co-launching the project, “The Wilder Blean project will prove that a wilder, nature-based solution is the right one to tackle the climate and nature crisis we now face. Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape.”

July 7, 2020: Ecosia Plants its 100 Millionth Tree (The Rising)

As of this month, Ecosia, the eleven-year-old eco-minded search engine, has planted 100 million trees. With each search, users have helped Ecosia plant a new tree every 0.8 seconds. 80% of Ecosia’s advertising revenue contributes to funding trees, which have cleared the atmosphere of over 1,771 tons of CO2. In 2018, Ecosia built a solar plant. “Today, we don’t just produce enough renewable energy to power all Ecosia searches—we produce twice as much,” Ecosia said. “By being 200% renewable, we’re actively crowding out dirty energy from the grid. It’s our way of saying no to fossil fuels.”

July 13, 2020: Colorado Becomes 11th US State to Ban ‘Gay and Trans Panic’ Defence (Gay Times)

At Denver’s LGBTQ Center, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, the first openly gay U.S. governor, signed a law into effect that would make it impossible for defendants to claim that their victim’s sexuality or gender identity caused them to act violently. “When somebody is targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender, we want to make sure that that victim has a fair day in court, and this bill is going to help us ensure that there aren’t biased arguments or bigoted arguments in our courtrooms here in Colorado,” said Amanda Gall, a prosecutor on the state’s District Attorneys’ Council. California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, and Washington have also banned “gay and trans panic” defenses.

July 13, 2020: Holly Grounds Develops Dissolvable Ramen Packaging That Turns Into Sauce (Dezeen)

When Holly Grounds was a product design student at Ravensbourne University London, she found her study sessions were often accompanied by instant ramen noodles. Her ten-minute meal was wrapped in plastic packaging that would take more than eighty years to decompose, so she created a more sustainable alternative: an edible wrapper steeped in spices and seasoning that dissolves in hot water. 

July 16, 2020: FCC Approves 988 to be 3-Digit Number for National Suicide Hotline Starting in 2022 (CNN)

The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) voted to enact a three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. In two years, the 24/7 hotline—1-800-273-8255 (TALK)—will also be reachable at 988. “My hope is that establishing a government-backed 988 suicide and mental health three-digit dialing code, on par with the 911 dialing code all Americans know for emergencies, we will send a powerful signal that there is nothing shameful about seeking in times of crisis,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said.