This month people all across the United States came together to celebrate a milestone in the fight for the rights of people with disabilities: the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As stated by Rooted in Rights earlier this month, the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public, according to the ADA National Network.
In the East Room of the White House this past July 20th, President Obama recognized the effort that went into making the ADA a reality, celebrating the activists in the movement for disability rights, including Tony Coelho and Judith Heumann. He also acknowledged achievements in disability rights, such as the recent creation of the State Department’s first advisor for International Disability Rights, a federal ordinance requiring more people with disabilities be hired, and the appointment of the first deaf White House receptionist.
There has been a hard-fought battle for the rights of people with disabilities, and effort to overcome ignorance and spread awareness. The President called for a continuation of that work as we go into the future. He stated, “We still have to do more to make sure that children with disabilities get every opportunity to learn and acquire the skills, and the sense of self-worth that will last a life-time. That is our most sacred charge.”
The President also addressed the issues of workplace discrimination faced by people with disabilities, and the current lack of skills training for many people with disabilities, saying that we cannot let, “all that incredible talent go to waste.”
In addition to the nation’s government, many of America’s cities came together to honor the ADA anniversary. In Seattle, the home of Rooted In Rights, residents gathered downtown on July 22. I had the opportunity to attend the celebrations along with several hundred other individuals. Together, we filled Westlake Park with enthusiasm to listen to the speakers, including Senator Cyrus Habib, Councilman Tom Rasmussen, and Toby Olson of the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment, in addition to messages from Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee.
I chatted with representatives from the various organizations who were also in attendance. I spoke with advocates from the Alliance of People with Disabilities, the Dream Catcher Balloon Program, AtWork, and the Arc of King County. Samantha Court, from the Arc of King County, told me that she believes that disability rights are civil rights, and to her the ADA represents, “The right to be included in every aspect of life, as all humans should.” Meanwhile AtWork’s Nicole Geiger stated that her goal is that, “Every person with a disability…has a job that helps them escape poverty.”
Overall, the celebrations were a success, not only as a place for the community of people with disabilities to enjoy the ADA’s 25th anniversary, but also to network with other individuals and organizations, and to gather energy and motivation to keep on fighting for a just and inclusive society.
Watch President Obama’s full speech in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA in the video below.
This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of Rooted in Rights.