21st anniversary of the ADA

July 26, 2011

Today marks the 21st anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Enacted by Congress and signed into law on July 26, 1990, the ADA instituted a wide range of reforms that were designed to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and government activities. The ADA was reauthorized in 2008 as the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). While we have far to go before the goals of equal rights and full equality are realized, 21 years later the ADA has greatly improved the lives of countless people with disabilities by advocating their unalienable rights to fully participate in the community.

Envisioning the Future

While July 26th marks an important date in the history of the disability rights movement, the future is uncertain for many people with disabilities, due to reduced budgets that will result in cuts to services that support people to live, learn and work in the community. In this climate it is crucial that the voices of people with disabilities be heard in order to fully realize the ADA.

Many federal and state agencies are rethinking their missions and services, based on lower levels of funding. The federal Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) is one of several agencies that has strengthened its commitment to lead into a positive future by listening to the voices of those the agency serves.

ADD convened an "Envisioning the Future" listening series to collect as much information from people with disabilities, family members, advocates and professionals about their visions of the future for people with disabilities so ADD could use the information as it revises its strategic plan. The ADD gathered comments from nearly 4,800 people through regional listening summits and comments submitted online at ADD's website.

ADD Commissioner Sharon Lewis noted that, " there are a tremendous number of competing priorities, a few foundational topics emerged as recurring themes during the regional sessions." Many of the comments, including those submitted by LRS, focused on community inclusion. LRS stressed the importance of protecting the right of people with disabilities to community access and integration and urged ADD to advocate with its federal partners to change the Medicaid program's funding of long-term care for institutions, such as nursing homes and developmental centers, and fund self-determined outcomes for people with disabilities.

ADD also convened regional self advocacy summits (see Regional Summit focuses on building stronger future for self advocates) to elevate the importance of the ideas and work of self advocates. Ohio delegates noted that people with disabilities should be paid a fair wage for their work, and they are creating a broad coalition of self advocacy organizations to work on this and other matters of importance.

People with disabilities must remain vigilant in advocating for and ensuring that their rights are protected as intended by the ADA.

Read more coverage about the ADA's anniversary: