(CNN)Three decades ago, many public spaces in this country looked very different and proved challenging to navigate for a large portion of the population. The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed on this day in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, did a lot to change that.
#ThrowbackThursday: George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act
"With today's signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom," Bush said. You can see a portion of his remarks in the Instagram video above.
The ADA was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on categories including race and sex. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the ADA was "the nation's first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities."
The legislation focused on providing support in employment, public services and spaces and communications. It's why you see lower drinking fountains, ramps and larger bathroom stalls in many public places. Businesses are also required to ensure that they can communicate with customers who have hearing, vision or speech disabilities.
As understanding of disabilities has changed, so has the ADA. President George W. Bush signed an amendment to the ADA which expanded the definition of what was considered a disability, including conditions like diabetes. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also supported ADA enforcement and revisions.
In his 1990 speech, President George H. W. Bush said that there were 43 million Americans with disabilities. By 2010, that number grew to include 56 million, according to a Census Bureau report.
The ADA was not a cure-all for Americans with disabilities. Even the plastic straw debate has accessibility issues that need to be considered. But, for all of the issues that still remain, the ADA made significant headway in providing options and opportunities to millions.