The nation recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. There’s no arguing that the 1990 law ushered in a new era of civil rights for people with disabilities.
Practically, the ADA meant that people with disabilities could no longer be shut out of public institutions or discriminated against in so many aspects of modern life – traveling the roads and getting a fair shake in the workplace to name just two. Symbolically, it meant that people with disabilities mattered. Finally our community was recognized…. seen.
Without a doubt, tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of lives have been changed for the better as a direct result of the passage of the ADA. (Here in Massachusetts, we are especially proud of the role that Ted Kennedy played in making it happen.)
But what many who don’t have loved with disabilities are missing is that America still has a long way to go. An editorial in the Hartford Courant on the ADA’s 25th anniversary, pointed out that the ADA “is old enough to have finished with school and be working at its first job. If that job were at the state Capitol, the ADA would have a struggle getting there.”
Government can certainly do more to ensure that people with disabilities are adequately prepared for work, and have the support – like transportation – and opportunities to succeed. That’s why you’ll find a “Petition our Government” Action Item as part of our campaign.
But as the Courant notes, the responsibility also lies in each of us. The ADA recognizes people with disabilities “as full citizens with full rights to participate in society,” the editorial concludes. “But society has yet to fully do its part.”