WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, the lead House sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), issued the following statement in observance of the fourteenth anniversary of the signing of the ADA on July 26th:
“Monday, July 26th marks the 14th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I was immensely proud to sponsor this bill, and prouder still the day the first President Bush signed the ADA into law. I’ll never forget it: More than 2,000 advocates for the disabled – some in wheelchairs, some with interpreters, some with seeing-eye dogs – participated in the signing ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House.
“The ADA was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act and it sent an unmistakable message: It is unacceptable to discriminate against someone simply because they have a disability. And it’s now illegal: in employment, in transportation, in public accommodations, and in telecommunications.
“The ADA recognized that the disabled belong to the American family, and can share in all we have to offer: legal rights, equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.
“When I sponsored this legislation, I harbored no illusions that it would topple centuries of prejudice overnight, or legislate acceptance of others different from ourselves. But we know from experience that integration can change hearts and minds.
“This Act enjoyed enormous bipartisan support, and over the past thirteen years, the ADA has allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to join the workforce, attend school, travel, and gain easier access to government buildings, restaurants, and other public accommodations – many for the first time in their lives. The ramps, curb cuts, Braille signs, and captioned television programs that were once novel are now ubiquitous. The ADA also inspired the provisions in the “Help America Vote Act” (passed in 2002) to ensure that polling places and voting machines are equally accessible and accommodating.
“Yet we cannot rest on the laurels of those hard-won accomplishments. Today, there are mounting obstacles that threaten to undermine the principles and objectives of the ADA. In recent years state courts and the Supreme Court have narrowed the scope and intent of the ADA.
“This is clearly not what Congress intended when it passed the ADA and the first President Bush signed it into law. We intended the law to be broad, not narrow. Yet even in Congress, the ADA is under attack: just last week, an amendment to ensure equal opportunity and retention for disabled employees in the federal workforce – required by Executive Order 13163 – was rejected by the Republican majority.
“As we commemorate this 14th anniversary of the ADA today, I urge my colleagues and all Americans to fight against these decisions that chip away at the foundation of equality we built just a short time ago. Our work is far from finished.
“Let us renew our commitment to the principles and spirit of the ADA, so that people may be judged and succeed because of their ability, not their disability.”