I Can Do It Myself!

I Can Do It Myself!
Yahoo! takes special note today of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The most sweeping and emancipating civil rights legislation ever passed on behalf of the 60 million kids and adults with disabilities in the United States, this landmark law recognizes that every individual must be able to participate fully in all aspects of society. For example, the ADA requires that brick-and-mortar locations that serve the general public be fully accessible to individuals with disabilities by making improvements like curb-cuts in the sidewalk (which, while commonplace today, didn’t exist when the ADA was signed), Braille labels on ATM machines, ramps, sign-language interpreters, service dogs allowed in restaurants, and so on.

But the ADA isn’t fundamentally about removing obstacles and ensuring access. It’s about the impact of accessibility on the quality of life of individuals with disabilities. It’s about dignity and respect. It’s about engagement and empowerment. It’s about opportunity and choice.

The ADA is a celebration of independence.

When he signed the ADA into law 20 years ago, President George H. W. Bush remarked from the White House lawn, “This is indeed an incredible day.” As we have worked with disabled individuals around the world to make Yahoo! as accessible as possible, we’re finding that for many, incredible days are now occurring on a regular basis.

We’ve been asked many times whether the accessibility mandates in the ADA extend beyond physical spaces to Internet places. Not surprisingly, they don’t. In fact, the Internet is not even mentioned in the ADA. Twenty years ago, few people grasped how central the Internet would become in the everyday lives of individuals. But Yahoo!’s Global Accessibility Team has never waited for legal requirements to ensure online accessibility. Together, with the hundreds of engineers and designers with whom we’ve partnered for the past five years, we’ve been working to make Yahoo! accessible for a different reason: It’s simply the right thing to do.  And today, we are proud to launch the Yahoo! Accessibility blog, which will highlight new accessibility developments and trends, perspectives from experts and influencers, and dialogue from the community.

So happy anniversary to the ADA, and congratulations to all who work tirelessly to make sure that individuals with disabilities—online or otherwise—are able to say, “Now I can do it myself!”

-Alan Brightman, Senior Policy Director, Yahoo! Inc.