Turning 25: A Systematic Review on the Social Impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act

2016-07-01T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Robert P. Gould
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) is the central pillar of civil rights laws for people with disabilities in the United States. Its significance is far-reaching and extends well beyond the court system; it is also a symbol of a paradigmatic shift to operationalize disability rights into culture and practice. Despite its significant and broad reach, there are frequent debates about the ADA’s efficacy as a social policy due to disparate and fragmented sources of data, disagreements about indicators of change, and the lack of a systematic data collection mechanism to track the law’s social progress. This dissertation includes a systematic review of research on the ADA and an exploration of its impact on social change. It also includes the design and execution of a novel approach to systematic review that can be used as a framework for future analyses of policy research. The dissertation is comprised of three separate papers, each of which is used to develop a descriptive knowledge base of the current state of evidence about the ADA. Findings from over 25 years of research reveal evidence of static, but positive, endorsements of disability inclusion across society, which are not necessarily interconnected with the embrace of disability rights principles such as the ADA’s goal of equal opportunity. Results are explained to provide suggestions for practice, and to identify trends to inform future research, discourse, and policy implementation.