Statement on 28th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
By: Vinny Olsziewski,
Chair, Democratic Party of Georgia Disability Caucus
Thursday, July 26, marks the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This landmark bipartisan legislation prohibits discrimination based on disability. Since its passage, America have taken great strides forward, but there is still a long way to go towards equality.
Housing, transportation, and other public facilities have become much more accessible. People with disabilities are more prevalent in the workforce and more openly accepted in society.
We see more positive portrayals in popular culture. Toy manufacturers are producing dolls that portray disabilities. Clothing lines for people with disabilities are appearing. Even Hollywood is creating characters with disabilities that go beyond stereotypes, with many of these roles being filled by people with disabilities.
Unfortunately, the politicians in Washington seem to be backtracking. We face a President who openly mocked a disabled reporter and never apologized. His Secretary of Labor supports a sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities, his Education Secretary has led the attack on Special Education, and his Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to throw out the ACA’s protections for pre-existing conditions. We need to continue pushing back on these mean-spirited attacks.
Things are no better at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. This past spring the House passed H.R. 620, the so-called “ADA Education and Reform Act”, which added additional barriers for people trying to hold businesses accountable to accessibility requirements. The proposed Fiscal Year 2019 Federal Budget shows us Congress’ backwards priorities. As predicted, the 2017 tax scam gave us an enormous increase in the budget deficit. Also, as predicted, GOP leadership in Congress is now trying to reduce that deficit by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and SSDI. They are callously trying to pay for their giveaways to the wealthiest among us by pick-pocketing the most vulnerable among us.
However, outside of Washington there are glimmers of hope. The Disability Community, which is the largest minority voting block in the country, is mobilizing. We were leaders in the 2017 fights to protect Medicaid and the ACA, and we are gearing up for more battles in Congress this fall. More candidates with disabilities are running than ever before. The Disability Community is ready to flex its political might, and those in its way had better watch out. To quote Disability Rights activist Joe Dart, “Vote like your life depends on it because it just might.” That advice is being taken to heart.
Disability Rights have traditionally been a bipartisan issue. The ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. It’s two biggest proponents in Congress were former Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Bob Dole (R-KS). We need to get back to those days. Let’s hope that the next anniversary allows us to look back on a year we, as Americans, can be proud of.
Happy Anniversary, ADA!