WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) joined Members of Congress, Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard, Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, and members of the disability advocacy community at a press conference on the release of the CAO 2009 Disability Report. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I want to thank the Members here today, Representatives Langevin, and Wasserman-Schultz, as well as Representatives Sensenbrenner and Upton, for their commitment to making the house a safer and more accessible place for all citizens.
“I would like to recognize our friends in the advocacy community who are with us – Mary Dolan and Nancy Starnes from the National Organization on Disabiltiy, and Shawn O’Neil from the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“I also want to acknowledge the work of Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard and Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers who have made disability access a priority and worked to implement improvements both structurally and in policy.
“And I especially want to thank Congressman Langevin for his comments, his advocacy on disability issues, and his help in passing and improving the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Last year, we strengthened the ADA, helping the law live up to its original promise of inclusion for all Americans with disabilities. Here in the People’s House, we must live by the letter and the spirit of that law—and what’s more, we can be an example to all Americans who come here from all over our country and the world.
“This report outlines ways we can uphold that commitment—ways we can improve our accessibility, as well as recommendations for further enhancing safety and procedures. Much progress has already been made: enhanced evacuation plans; cleared hallways, stairways, and exit paths to accommodate wheelchairs; and greater availability of sign language interpreters, to name a few.
“But, as this report points out, there is still more to do to make House Offices and the Capitol more accessible for those visiting and working here.
“One important effort, which I know Mr. Langevin has focused on, is building access to committee daises and the rostrum in the House Chamber. As a member of the House, Mr. Langevin should be able to preside over the chamber as his colleagues are able to do.
“A lot of words are spoken in this building, every day, about equality, inclusion, and fairness. This report represents a chance to put those words into action—to build those principles into the place where we do democracy’s work every day.”