As the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reached its 26th anniversary on July 26, we must of course celebrate this monumental achievement and the paths it opened up, both figuratively and literally, for people with disabilities living across the country.
However, while celebration is certainly warranted, the anniversary of the ADA should also galvanize conversation about ways we can continue to improve equality and increase opportunities for people with disabilities.
In 1990, ADA sought to end discrimination and to ensure proper accommodations were provided. With 26 years of changes behind us, we must now build on that foundation. We must aim to improve employment possibilities for people with disabilities so that everyone is given the chance to earn a paycheck and experience the self-worth that comes with employment.
We must examine and retool our current infrastructure with a goal of increasing accessible means of transportation. Public transportation is the key to integration and access into a person’s local community, and it holds even more importance for people with disabilities. We must identify the gaps in services for people who need support and find ways to address them.
Twenty-six years ago, the ADA broke new, unprecedented ground for people with disabilities. We must recognize all that is accomplished while also remaining hungry for continuing advancements. The Arc of New Jersey encourages you to use this occasion to celebrate the past, but also to think and plan for a future that addresses the needs of people with disabilities in 2016 and beyond.
President, The Arc of New Jersey