WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Hoyer was the lead House sponsor of the ADA, helping to enact it into law with bipartisan support. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Twenty years ago today, the Americans with Disabilities Act strengthened our country’s core value of equal opportunity. It ensured that people with disabilities would have the opportunity to access the same public spaces so many of us take for granted, and the opportunity to succeed on the basis of their talent.
“Fifty million Americans have taken advantage of the ADA’s promise and have lived richer lives as a result. Our country as a whole has benefitted enormously from their hard work. It was a great bipartisan accomplishment, and I was proud to have helped make it happen. The ADA was the product of true legislative cooperation, and of the passion and commitment of the activists and Members of Congress who made it possible: people like Tony Coelho, Chai Feldblum, Justin and Yoshiko Dart, Melissa Schulman, and James and Cheryl Sensenbrenner.
“Their accomplishment was remarkable. But it is also a work in progress. That’s true because we passed the ADA Amendments Act in 2008, again with bipartisan support, to strengthen the bill’s original intent. But it’s also true because the challenge of accessibility is one we always have to live up to, whether that means adjusting to new technologies, or helping businesses tap the great resource of talent in Americans with disabilities.
“That challenge applies to the House, as well. Today, for the first time, our House rostrum is wheelchair accessible, so that Members of Congress with disabilities can preside as Speaker Pro Tempore. And I’m proud that Congressman Jim Langevin, for the first time, has the honor of presiding over the House as Speaker Pro Tempore. No one understands better than Jim the need to commit ourselves to the cause of inclusion, and no one has been a more steadfast advocate for disability rights. It is fitting that he is breaking new ground today.
“This step, here in the People’s House, demonstrates our aspiration for a country in which Americans with disabilities will be able to perform any job for which their talents qualify them. The ADA brought that day closer, and it’s our job to continue to live up to its principles of inclusion and equal opportunity.
“In that spirit, I’m happy that the Energy and Commerce Committee has reported out a bill we will shortly consider, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which will help accessibility keep pace with changing times. Thank you to Rep. Markey for sponsoring the bill, and to Chairman Waxman, Chairman Boucher, and Ranking Member Stearns for their work to get it to the floor. I’m glad that the Judiciary Committee has held hearings on the challenge of the ADA, as well. I hope others will follow their lead.
“This anniversary is a chance to look back at the progress our nation has made, and to renew our work to make equal opportunity a reality.”