September 30, 2020

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990, meaning we are celebrating the act's 30th anniversary this year! The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life, employment, state and local government, public accommodations, telecommunications, and miscellaneous provisions.

The ADA was the world's first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities. It was a collaborative effort of Democrats, Republicans, the legislative and the executive branches, federal and state agencies, and people with and without disabilities.

On August 6th, more than 60 Epsteiners attended an ADA Lunch n’ Learn presentation featuring insights from ADA activist Judith Heumann as well as current design, engineering and project management staff members. There was also a special appearance from Epstein "alumnus" Tom Scheckelhoff, a 20-plus year veteran of our firm who is now happily retired in Florida.

At the event, which was sponsored by Epstein’s Diversity & Inclusion committee, our staff heard from: Laura Rebbe, senior project manager, on ADA issues and solutions developed for a recent hotel renovation; Greg Osborne, director of civil engineering, on the City of Chicago’s ADA Accessibility Program and Epstein’s ADA work on a number of private and public sector developments; Randy Buescher, director of client services, on ADA’s influence in architectural design; Lori Chandler, senior technical architect, ADA lessons learned on the west expansion to McCormick Place Convention Center; and Katie Bolger, civil design engineer, on how ADA impacts playgrounds. We also hear about how buildings were designed pre and post-ADA from Tom.In addition,

Judith's Ted Talk video was shown illustrating the pre-ADA mobility issues she had as a child and young adult confined to a wheelchair. Finally, project architect, Priyanka Rao, gave an uplifting overview of Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, the world’s first entirely accessible amusement park, showing how children and families of all ages and physical capabilities are able to enjoy rides and activities throughout the venue.

Overall, this event highlighted to all our staff how ADA helps nearly 57 million Americans navigate the public realm and live fuller, richer and more equitable lives. We may not even realize all the ADA guidelines we design to on a daily basis. This just goes to show how crucial the ADA act has been, how it shapes our everyday life, and how it aims to connect everyone in our communities.

Thank you to Samantha Schneider for hosting!