On Monday, we will celebrate a second independence day in July, one less known than the 4th. On July 26th, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against all individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the community at large.
The ADA has helped millions of people with disabilities, their families, their friends, and society overall. We have seen many wonderful achievements since the passing of the ADA including, but not limited to:
- Employers are required to give all qualified individuals equal opportunity in the workforce, regardless of any disability they may have. This is perhaps the greatest impact of the ADA.
- Many physical accommodations have been implemented, such as the construction of curb cuts, ramps, automatic doors, public buses with wheelchair lifts, and countless forms of assistive technology.
- There has been incredible growth in the overall community’s attitude and mindset regarding people with disabilities. No longer are persons with intellectual disabilities hidden away at institutions; rather, we hear more and more success stories every day about what people with disabilities are accomplishing. You will see some of those stories on our webpage, www.barberinstitute.org.
These achievements were made possible because of the perseverance and persistence of the visionary advocates who were not satisfied with the status quo. Dr. Gertrude Barber shattered numerous “glass ceilings” in her lifetime, but July 26th was the pinnacle of her efforts. As a member of President Kennedy’s commission on Mental Retardation in the 60’s, she was involved in crafting initial legislation for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. She was invited to the White House by President George Bush to see this landmark legislation signed into law.
On July 26th, let us remember and thank those who fought for equal rights for persons with disabilities and honor them by living full lives in the community and maximizing every opportunity the ADA has made possible. The importance and need for advocacy in education, employment and community life can never be forgotten.