Getting Familiar with Disability Law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)

“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

-President George H. W. Bush

In today’s political world, it is difficult to stay informed of the many different movements occurring nationwide that advocate for individuals with disabilities. Bills supporting disability rights are being submitted to the House of Representatives and to the Senate more frequently then ever, and public awareness of issues surrounding Disability Law has increased.  However, there are still countless uncertainties regarding the rights that have been established to support and protect people with disabilities, what issues are currently being addressed, and what areas are we in desperate need of addressing.

We as a country have come a long way since 1817 when the first school for disabled children was founded in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed, that outlawed discrimination on the basis of race in public accommodations and employment, as well as in federally assisted programs, leading us to one of the most important civil rights law to be enacted; The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The ADA requires that state and local governments be accessible to people with disabilities. As stated by the Department of Justice, “Accessibility is not just physical assess, such as adding a ramp where steps exist. Accessibility is much more, and it requires looking at how programs, services, and activities are delivered.” Unfortunately, the employment rate of people with disabilities has not improved since the passage of the ADA and two-thirds of people with disabilities who do not have jobs indicate that they would if they could find employment. The question is, what does this mean for you, for those who are affected, and for us as a country?

In March of 2007, two Prader-Willi Homes of Oconomowoc representatives traveled to Washington D.C. for the 2007 Disability Policy Seminar to help answer that question and to become more educated about national public policy issues that are critical for people with disabilities. They spent three days learning about the most crucial and key political issues that our country is facing and are in desperate need of public support. A few of the topics included:

·        2008 Budget and Appropriations

·        The  crisis of providing integrated community living for people with disabilities

·        Social Security and Supplemental Security Income

·        Medicaid and Medicare health care benefits

·        Developmental Disability Assistance (DD Act)

·        The State Children’s Health Insurance Program

·        Employment

·        Education

·         Direct Support Professionals

·         Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act

·         Voting rights

·         The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act

·         Hate Crimes

They returned back to Oconomowoc well informed and ready to act. Since their return, they have made a commitment to help educate others on how to maintain and protect these essential disability programs and how they can get involved and truly make a difference.

On March 2nd, numerous different national organizations will host the 2008 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington DC in hopes of educating even more individuals, families, and providers on the current issues affecting people with disabilities. By educating ourselves and by getting politically involved, we can secure an even better outlook for the lives of people with disability in the future years to come, and ensure that their voices are heard.

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