Submitted by Joseph Jones, executive director, Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement

When the U.S. Senate passed the Americans with Disabilities Act 30 years ago last month, Sen. Tom Harkin stood on the floor of the Senate and made a pledge “that every child with a disability will have the opportunity to maximize his or her potential to live proud, productive and prosperous lives in the mainstream of our society.”
This landmark civil rights legislation opened up our country and our communities to 43 million Americans who had previously lived in the shadows and on the fringes of society.
Evidence of the progress we have made over the past three decades is all around us, from the curb cuts on our sidewalks to the integration of persons with disabilities into our community and civic life through community-based health and employment services. Our directions can come in Braille, large-point font, with audio descriptions, and in plain language, and pandemic response press conferences across the nation include sign-language interpreters. 
There is much to be proud of, but a great deal of work remains. The many challenges brought about by the coronavirus over the past seven months have demonstrated that the ADA is just as relevant and necessary in 2020 as it was in 1990. We saw this when concerns about adequate hospital beds and ventilators raised questions about how to prioritize patients, and people with disabilities once again rallied to demand they not be left behind, or worse, left for dead.
We continue to see it at drive-thru testing sites that discriminate against those without vehicles or the ability to drive. And we see it in unemployment trends, where nationally we have seen 20% of working persons with disabilities lose their job as a result of the pandemic, compared to 14% of nondisabled workers.
The ADA will also play a crucial role in the process of building a more integrated and just society as we recover from this pandemic. It is already influencing how employers provide accommodations and manage inquiries on employee health and wellness. And it will protect employees against discrimination on the basis of disability, including those sick with or recovered from the virus facing long-term health impacts.
If there is one positive to come from this unprecedented time, it is the demonstrated resiliency of Iowa businesses. Business leaders across the state turned on a dime to create accommodations designed to protect employee health and make work accessible outside of the traditional brick and mortar workplace.
These same accommodations are what the disability community has sought for years to allow for a more open pathway to competitive, integrated employment for persons with disabilities. Now we all know it can be done.
Persons with disabilities have too often been the last in and the first out when it comes to employment. Before the pandemic, Iowans with disabilities already faced an unemployment rate twice that of nondisabled workers. Iowa business leaders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-create themselves and the employment landscape in the state. As they do, they should keep persons with disabilities in mind.