As we approach the 31st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, I thought it appropriate to reconsider an earlier post that explained the implications of this legislation.
July is a month to honor and remember all of the sacrifices that led to our nation’s independence. As a community, on the fourth day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, picnics, fireworks and the American flag.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to another milestone in July when another form of independence was born. On July 26, 1990, President George HW Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act. The intent of this law was to secure civil rights and eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities. In signing the Americans With Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990, President George HW Bush stated: “Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. Today we are here to rejoice and celebrate another “Independence Day” that is long overdue. With the signing of the groundbreaking Americans for Disabilities Act today, every man, woman and child with a disability can enter a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom through once-closed doors. ”(Http://adaanniversary.org)
On that historic day in July 1990, 3,000 people stood on the White House lawn to witness the president’s directive: “Let the shameful walls of marginalization come down at last.” The ADA anniversary website best says it by claiming, that “the adoption of the ADA reflects deeply rooted American ideals that value the contributions individuals can make when free from arbitrary, unfair, or outdated societal attitudes and practices that prevent their potential from being realized. The ADA reflects the recognition that the surest path to America’s continued vitality, strength, and aliveness is through the full realization of the contributions of all of its citizens. “
The message of the Americans With Disabilities Act is quite simple and summarized in the preamble, which states that the law “aims to ensure equal opportunities, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities”. This equality should be seen in the areas of employment, education, public support, telecommunications and public housing.
As we near the anniversary of this momentous day in our nation’s history, it is a good time to reflect on where we stand as a community in upholding the goals set for that day. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to present a collection of articles focused on individual success stories, local resources, and individuals committed to the success of this incredible population, and areas in employment and education where those dreams come true. If I remember all of the opportunities I personally experienced in gathering this information and the extraordinary people I have met and who I now consider friends, I would say we are doing very well.
We still have a lot to do along the way. Perhaps the day will come when words like “integration” and “inclusion” will no longer have to be used because they will be commonplace. Perhaps “People First Language” and “Human Rights” are practiced in all areas of our community. Perhaps employers need not consider hiring a person with a “disability” but simply hiring the person for their “ability”.
On behalf of all the individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to provide people with disabilities with the opportunities and choices that will make their lives more enjoyable, I wish you all happy days of independence!