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Horowitz: Let’s Celebrate Americans with Disabilities Act: 25th Anniversary

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

 

 

Rob Horowitz

Twenty-five Julys ago President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, saying “Every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright now era of equality, independence, and freedom”.

While there is still much to accomplish to make these ringing words a complete reality, people with disabilities have made substantial strides over the past twenty-five years in large measure to the barriers removed by the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA).

This ground-breaking law bans discrimination against people with disabilities in employment and requires that public places provide access. “Thanks to the ADA, the places that comprise our shared American life -- schools, workplaces, movie theaters, courthouses, buses, baseball stadiums, national parks -- they truly belong to everyone,” remarked President Obama at a White House ceremony last week, marking the anniversary.

On the PBS News Hour, Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, talked about the impact the ADA has had on his life: “Well, first of all, I want to say that the Americans with Disabilities Act has had a profound impact on my life. .I was injured about 10 years before the ADA passed, so I really remember what the world was like before ADA was passed and after it was enacted. Clearly, it’s brought down tremendous barriers and obstacles and has opened doors for people with disabilities.”

 A large segment of Americans go through life with a disability. More than 56 million Americans- more than 1out-of-6 of us --live with a disability with over half of people with disabilities living with a severe one, according to The News Hour.  Ensuring that we provide this big slice of our fellow Americans with the opportunities to succeed and realize their full potential is not only what is fair and right; it is critical to our productivity as a nation.

That is why, as both President Obama and Representative Langevin noted, it is critical to continue to build on the solid foundation for progress and opportunity created by the ADA., We must work to ensure that more people with disabilities--most of which want to work--can find employment. Today, only 41 percent of people with disabilities are employed as opposed to 79 percent of those without a disability. And people with disabilities who are working are paid more than one-third less than the rest of us.

It is also important to continue to make use of public transportation more easily accessible to people with disabilities. It is still not the case in too many instances.

All-in-all, however, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has withstood the test of time.  This law stands as a big achievement—one that has benefited many individuals and families and made us a better, fairer country. Marking the ADA’s 25th is a truly happy occasion.
 
 
 Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island

 

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