U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division

Department of Justice seal


The Lives, Faces, and Stories Behind the ADA

Twenty six years ago, Congress passed, and President George H. W. Bush signed, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ushering in a new era of civil rights for people with disabilities in this country.  The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the ADA to ensure that people with disabilities can live, work, learn, vote, and play in their own communities – free from discrimination and able to participate in the mainstream of American life.  This document provides brief case highlights – along with anecdotal stories – about the impact of the ADA on the lives of people with disabilities around our country.  The cases highlighted in this document represent just some examples of the Department’s work enforcing the ADA over the last six years.  To read more about our ADA enforcement, visit our website at archive.ada.gov.



Gabrielle's story

GABRIELLE – who dreamed of saving up money to buy a home – no longer assembles nut-and-bolt kits and knee pads in a sheltered workshop for $100 to 150 per month.  Instead, she works as a grooming assistant at a dog day care and boutique, earning more than $9 per hour.  And as she told a local media outlet, The Oregonian, last winter, “I feel better about my life and … I ended up buying that house.”

Financial Services



Chris' story

CHRISTOPHER, who uses a wheelchair, made a reservation for a trip across Virginia on Greyhound and notified the company he would be traveling in his wheelchair.  But when he arrived to board his assigned bus, the driver could not operate the lift.  He waited for a different bus and driver but when they finally arrived, personnel could not find the key to access the lift.  ChrisWhen a new key finally arrived, Christopher was already three hours behind schedule and missed his connecting bus.  Eventually he asked a friend to pick him up, which involved the rental of an accessible van.  Unfortunately, on his trip back home several days later, he experienced similar problems. Christopher was exhausted, frustrated, and inconvenienced by extended delays on what should have been routine trips



Vickie's Story

A young man was experiencing a mental health crisis, and his mother, VICKIE, and his godmother – who are both deaf – went with him to the emergency room at Dominion Hospital.  Vickie repeatedly asked Dominion for a sign language interpreter so she could provide information about her son’s current medications and medical history, but Dominion refused.  Even at the son’s last family meeting to discuss his discharge, follow up care, and treatment, the hospital still did not provide an interpreter and asked the son to interpret for his mother.  This led to the son yelling at his mother, Vickie, who could not understand him, and Dominion staff yelling at Vickie because of the miscommunications between her and her son.



Jayla's Story

JAYLA – who lives in Robeson County, North Carolina, and is a member of the Lumbee Nation – loves sports and playing outside.Jayla and her family  Jayla has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.  The old setup of the county’s playgrounds, which all had a large rubber border and sand surface, prevented her from using them.  Today, because of the reforms mandated by the Justice Department’s agreement, she will soon be able to access the playgrounds, so she can enjoy her childhood and play with her siblings, just as all kids deserve.

The Glover's Story

The RV Resort Manager approached the Glovers at their campsite and informed them that the resort’s owner would not allow their two-year-old foster child, C.G., to use the common facilities, including the showers and the indoor pool, unless and until the Glovers could provide a documented guarantee that C.G.’s HIV did not pose a threat to other guests.  The Glovers no longer felt welcome at Wales West, and decided to leave, eventually settling at another campground in Alabama. But Mr. Glover and C.G. both had mobility difficulties and the pool was too far away from their campsite for either to walk.  The Glovers ended up significantly shortening their planned month-long vacation.

Brahm's Story

Nine-year-old BRAHM has bone dysplasia, also known as dwarfism, which makes him smaller and lighter than other children his age.  In the fall of 2013, when he was seven years old and weighed approximately 34 pounds, Brahm joined a wrestling club in his hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado.Brahm  His doctor had cleared him to wrestle children of a similar weight. Initially, for the regular season tournaments, PPWL allowed Brahm to wrestle in the six and under age division, even though he was seven years old, so that he could wrestle with children of a similar weight. When it came to the State Wrestling Championship, however, PPWL refused to allow Brahm to compete in the six and under division.  Consequently, Brahm left the tournament and did not compete.


Cedar Rapids

CATHERINE, who uses a walker, encountered problems with the entrance door to the parking pay system in a municipal lot across from the federal courthouse as well as with sidewalks when she Catherinevisited the Fair Housing Office at the Veteran’s Memorial Building.  Similarly, CHERIE, who uses a wheelchair and a walker, has encountered several accessibility issues with sidewalks and entrances to city facilities in Cedar Rapids.  Experiences like these, however, will become a thing of the past over the next four years thanks to the PCA agreement.


Marshall's Story

The agreement with Nueces County will allow people with disabilities, like MARSHALL, who was invited to present at the Coastal Bend Hurricane Conference in Nueces County.  Unfortunately, when Marshall tried to register online for the conference, he wasn’t able to do so because he is blind.  The forms on the county website were inaccessible to him because he uses a screen reader.

PDF version of this document