Thursday, June 25, 2015
Remarks from Sen. Harkin about the ADA
RantWoman content curation practices definitely include accumulating articles about timely topics such as the upcoming 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA, #ADA25 . Here is an item from American Council of the Blind Secretary RayCampbell
Today, I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon hosted by the City Club of Chicago, recognizing and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The luncheon speaker was former Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, one of the original architects of the ADA.
Senator Harkin reflected on the progress that has been made, that much greater access has been achieved and that people are increasingly incorporating universal design into such things as buildings and programs and services. He talked about how, in the late 1980s when ADA was first being discussed, that it was a little like â€œherding catsâ€ to get the disability community unified behind a piece of legislation. He specifically mentioned one meeting where he came in, said he'd be back in two hours and either folks would be unified behind the legislation and it would move forward, or we'd stop right now. We know the results, agreement was reached and the ADA moved forward.
Two of the ADA's goals were for people with disabilities to be able to live independently and achieve economic self sufficiency. Senator Harkin lamented that we still have a long way to go to allow people with disabilities to achieve economic self sufficiency. While he said that there are now 5.3 million people with disabilities in the workforce as of May, 2015,, compared to 4.9 million in May, 2014, there are still too many people with disabilities who want to work that can't find work. He talked a bit about the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act which among other things, is designed to steer people with disabilities into competitive employment, not sub-minimum wage work as the first option.
Two final points Senator Harkin discussed. First, he wondered out loud when states are facing budget challenges like we are here in Illinois, why is it that among the first programs to be cut are those which allow people with disabilities to live independently with proper supports in the community. After all, as he stated, we have data that shows it's much more cost-affective to have people living out in the community than being institutionalized. Secondly, in response to a question, he said there's no way in his estimation that the ADA would pass in today's political environment. We had the right mix when it passed, a Congress which worked on it in bipartisan fashion, and a President who supported it.
I'm glad I attended this event as part of celebrating the ADA's 25th anniversary. While there is still work to be done, and while there has been and probably will continue to be debate about how much people who are blind got from the ADA, I hope many of you in your communities will join efforts to celebrate this important anniversary.
Ray Campbell, Secretary, American Council of the Blind