Today, July 26th 2022, our nation celebrates the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — landmark legislation that has been hailed as the “Emancipation Proclamation” for disabled Americans. The ADA was a bipartisan compromise that provided the initial framework for a more inclusive society, where people with and without disabilities can live, learn, work, and recreate together.
The ADA helped pave the path for DRNC’s advocacy. We have moved mountains since 1990, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. DRNC’s vision of a just society where people with disabilities are free from discrimination and abuse; and a fully integrated and accessible community – where people with disabilities have power, equal opportunity, and freedom to make their own decisions – is vastly unrealized.
Enforcing the ADA has been slow and difficult. Some policymakers and community members have ignored or resisted the law, and even sought to roll back the ADA’s protections. The majority of people with disabilities are still under- or unemployed and living in poverty. Far too many disabled people remain segregated in institutions isolated out of sight and mind. People of color with disabilities experience the worst outcomes amidst discrimination, and are routinely denied opportunities to enjoy community life at significantly higher rates.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased our challenges by hitting people with disabilities, especially people of color particularly hard. It caused mass illness and death, worsened existing unemployment, hunger, housing instability, and inadequate health and mental health care. It has turned congregate facilities, like nursing facilities, into death traps, and isolated people who need daily support.
The disparities exposed by the pandemic are a call to action. While others aspire to get “back to normal,” DRNC maintains that “normal” is unacceptable, and the structural inequities causing disabled Americans to be pushed aside must change. We also recognize that, as society seeks to move past the pandemic, we must all take care to ensure people with disabilities and chronic health conditions can safely access our public spaces.
Just as people with all kinds of disabilities worked in solidarity to achieve their hard-won goal of passing the ADA, all marginalized groups must join together to fight for healthcare access, voting rights, fair wages, policing reform, accessible and affordable housing, and other basic human rights.
The ADA provided a tool for disabled people to shape their destinies and to shatter the myths and stigma that surround disability. We must build on this foundation. The law cannot change attitudes, but integration can, and we must work harder to step up its pace. We are all degraded and held back by segregation and discrimination based on perceived differences in our society.
We at DRNC are aware that we stand on the shoulders of the fearless disability rights warriors who laid the groundwork of the ADA and other transformation laws. To commemorate the ADA’s 32nd anniversary, we recommit to pushing onward toward our vision. DRNC invites you to celebrate with us and join us on the rocky road ahead. Together can we build pathways that work for everyone!
Ways to Celebrate – TODAY July 26th
Disability:IN NC Virtual Celebration | 11am – 12pm – Virtual event will illustrate the diverse forms of disability employment and inclusion through a combination of exciting vignettes and artistic performances.
CCD Virtual Briefing & Panel Discussion | 2pm – 3pm – Learn about the ADA’s impact on accessible, integrated, affordable, and safe housing within the USA. CART and ASL will be provided.
NCCDD Virtual Celebration | 6pm – 7pm – NCCDD will lead us in sharing stories about the ADA and Olmstead and how vital they are to helping people with disabilities live, work, and play in their communities.
DMAP #ThankYouADA Social Media Campaign – create a space for counter-storytelling and counter-narratives elevating disables voices to challenge existing narratives devaluing and oppressing our community.