The ADA’s 30th Anniversary
A statement from our Chief Executive Officer
On July 26, 2020, our nation celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This landmark legislation has been hailed as the “Emancipation Proclamation” for disabled Americans. The ADA has been an essential tool in achieving a more inclusive society where people with and without disabilities can live, learn, work, and recreate together.
DRNC joins in celebrating this milestone that seems almost unimaginable today. Yet at the 30-year mark, we recognize the ADA as a stepping stone. 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 have sought to reduce the ADA’s protections. People with disabilities are still disproportionately under- or unemployed and impoverished. Far too many remain segregated in institutions, isolated out of sight and mind. For disabled people of color, these negative outcomes are magnified.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit people with disabilities and people of color particularly hard. It has resulted in mass illness and death, and exacerbated existing unemployment, hunger, housing instability and inadequate healthcare access. It has turned congregate facilities – that all too often are the only option available for disabled people who need some daily assistance -into death traps.
The disparities exposed by the pandemic are our call to action. While others pine to get “back to normal,” we believe that “normal” was unacceptable, and the structural inequities causing disabled Americans to be marginalized can and must be addressed.
Just as people with all kinds of disabilities worked in solidarity to achieve their hard-won goal of 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 foundation for disabled people to begin shaping 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 step up its pace. We are all degraded 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 paved the way to the ADA and beyond. On this ADA 30th anniversary, we recommit to pushing onward to our vision. Please celebrate with us, and join us in this work. We need you!
Virginia Knowlton Marcus
Chief Executive Officer