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Reflecting on the Americans with Disabilities Act


July 26, 2019 | by Bridget Hayman

Access Living today celebrates the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights legislation that set the stage for a more inclusive world for people with disabilities. The ADA has led to better access and more inclusive policies in many communities across the country. Countless people with disabilities today have benefited in some way from the ADA.

However, it’s a turbulent time in our country right now for people with disabilities of all kinds. Attempts to stoke fear, segregate, and divide are widespread. We continue to live under looming federal attempts to deny our basic human rights, in areas like healthcare, housing and education. Furthermore, we recognize that the ableism we experience is closely related to racism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia, which inform the very fabric of the society we live in— and damage us all.

As we look back at the disability rights progress made in the last 29 years, we must dig in deep for the work we must continue to do in the ongoing struggle to make sure that people with disabilities in all communities are welcomed and have equal opportunity. 

So many of us live at the intersections of multiple marginalized groups, including black and brown communities, immigrants, LGBTQIA* folks, and people with disabilities whose voices tend to be pushed to the bottom of the disability hierarchy, including those with intellectual/developmental disabilities and those living with chronic pain or other invisible disabilities. Access Living is committed to continuing to work to make sure that people with disabilities from marginalized groups are at the center of our fight. We see injustice for marginalized people every day. We know there is a ton of work still to do, and we’re proud to do it with you as part of our community.

That’s why today, and every day, we recommit ourselves to lifting the voices of all people with disabilities and building our collective power. We people with disabilities have the wisdom that comes from negotiating many social issues every day; let’s use that wisdom together. We must build upon the hard-fought victories of the past and push forward to find new ways to engage in an intersectional way so that we graduate into the next phase of advocacy and service.

ADA Spotlight: Check out this post by Day al-Mohamed about ADA champion Congressman Major Owens, and the following two-part post from Villissa Thompson (Ramp Your Voice) and Alice Wong (Disability Visibility Project) for insight on why intersectionality must be at the heart of our movement as we push forward. 

Part 1

Part 2

What we need now are new thinkers – people who don’t just believe in and talk about equality.  We need people committed to an intersectional approach to stand alongside us as we push this work forward. Will you join us? The ADA was a start, but we can grow. Let’s work together to realize a fuller vision beyond the ADA—towards welcoming and inclusive communities that realize the power of our collective wisdom.

On this 29th anniversary of the ADA, let’s move forward together. Happy birthday to the Americans with Disabilities Act!