Thursday, July 23, 2009

The ADA at 19: A Time to Celebrate (and Advocate Harder Than Ever)

Sunday is the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's nearly indisputable that people with disabilities have more rights and more access than they did before the ADA, and that's reason to celebrate. But if you're reading my blog, you probably also know that our country has a long way to go before people with disabilities are truly equal citizens. Today, we face questions like: How will people with disabilities fare in health care reform? How can we make progress in education, housing, employment, and other areas when budget cuts are devastating services for people with disabilities nationwide?

This milestone will elicit many ceremonies and speeches, including one from our president, but it will take more than words and compassion to eliminate discrimination, remove barriers, solve problems, and ensure equal rights and opportunities for all Americans. As I review remarks about this anniversary, I'll be looking for ideas, plans, and dollars -- not just progress reports.

In the meantime, I want to share several important resources that may help you learn more -- and teach others -- about the ADA and its importance. I encourage you to add your own comments on 1) the significance of the ADA, 2) steps we still need to take, or 3) other resources you'd like to share.

- Full text of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (as amended in 2008)
- About the ADA
- History
- How the ADA Defines "Disabilities"
- ADA Training (podcasts, toolkits, conferences, and more)
- Resources (employment, youths with disabilities, and more)
- Information on Accessible Technology

Thanks to the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) National Network of ADA Centers for these resources. Learn about DBTAC and find even more on its website.

"With nearly 54 million Americans living with disabilities, it must be a priority for our government to do everything it can to protect and respect the needs of these Americans. I am proud the Senate passed this Act today to reverse judicial decisions that permit discrimination against persons with disabilities. Eighteen years ago, enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act was a historic milestone for millions of Americans when it was signed into law. It gave Americans with disabilities better access, more opportunities, and increased independence."
- Senator Barack Obama, on the Senate's passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Sept. 11, 2008

"The ADA is one of the most successful civil rights laws in our history and has been an essential part of countless American lives."
- President George W. Bush, proclamation on the 18th anniversary of the ADA, July 26, 2008

"In 1992, I issued a challenge to our nation. I said we must not rest until America has a national disability policy based on three simple creeds; inclusion, not exclusion; independence, not dependence; and empowerment, not paternalism. I remain committed to that vision and I want to thank all of you for working so hard with us to make it a reality. More than ever before in our history, America's greatness in the next century will depend upon the ability of our citizens to make the most of their own lives. Americans with disabilities are an enormous, largely untapped reservoir of that potential."
- President Bill Clinton, May 23, 1996

"This Act is powerful in its simplicity. It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so long and so hard. Independence, freedom of choice, control of their own lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream."
- President George H.W. Bush, ADA signing ceremony, July 26, 1990

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
-- Martin Luther King Jr.
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