In remarks at the White House, where he signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Obama said the ADA resulted from a movement carried out by people who "refused to accept a second-class status in America."
A second-class status.
That's a great way to put it when ,19 years later, things as simple as going out to eat and using a bathroom are still up in the air. I just returned home from a Friendly's, a national food chain, where their bathroom was not accessible. So there I sit in an open doorway, no way to transfer onto a toilet, no way to close a door for privacy. A nondisabled woman in the bathroom said "Well that's okay. You must be used to having no privacy." She was diapering a baby and said "He doesn't mind" and laughed.
Second class status isn't funny or amusing.
And it's far worse than not being able to use a bathroom. We have staggering unemployment figures, even when we're not in recession. In June 2009, the percent of people with disabilities in the labor force was 22.6 compared with 71.9 for persons with no disability. We lack housing and transportation for people with disabilities. And we still face institutionalization in nursing homes at young ages.
Let's hear what our Attorney General had to say on the ADA anniversary:
As steward of the ADA, the
committed to actively enforcing this critical civil rights law
and will use all tools to seek compliance - including
litigation if necessary - so that its promise of full
equality for Americans with disabilities can finally be realized.
We are full partners in President Obama's
designated "Year of Community Living" and will vigorously
enforce the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision to end unnecessary is
It's 19 years after the passage of the ADA and on this anniversary we need to remember those who have fought and are still fighting the good fight. We need to recognize the progress that's been made and those who have helped us. Sen. Tom Harkin has been a strong consistent voice on our behalf. There are many others as well, those in the disability community who have sacrificed, who first said "This is a civil rights issue" back when saying that was mocked. It still is at times, but imagine being among the first to do it.
Yet, despite progress we have seen, our unemployment rate is disgracefully high, not only in recession, but always. Imagine if our unemployment rates applied to the non-disabled population of our country.
There isn't enough housing, transportation is inadequate or unavailable for many and we are still working to get people out of institutions into community. Imagine if tomorrow nondisabled people looking for apartments had to eliminate those which didn't have ramps - or had to abide by laws which make them responsible for paying for access. Imagine if nondisabled people were told if they couldn't find housing or afford inhome care they would have to be in nursing homes in their teens, twenties, thirties, etc.
All those "buts"- we have a long way to go.
"It began when they not only refused to accept the way the world saw them, but also the way they had seen themselves," [President Obama] said.
More of us with disabilities approach life with a sense of empowerment and a positive attitude, in part because we have more opportunities and more allies, those who believe that we can live full and productive lives. Instead of raising artificial bars of ableism, we need to remain creative and resourceful so that more of us are freed from outdated stereotypes and attitudes that keep people with disabilities in lives of poverty, unable to use their talents.
Next year the ADA will be 20 years old. Let's make this year count.
Let's keep working toward getting rid of the "but's"....