On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA was a culmination of advocacy by activists, including the late, Illinois trailblazers Marca Bristo and Ann Ford - along with other visionaries, like Justin Dart.
These leaders, and major demonstrations organized and attended by thousands of Americans with disabilities, including the Capitol Crawl in June 1990, made a civil rights breakthrough possible.
The ADA is a landmark in the fight to secure crucial protections for individuals with disabilities in the United States. It prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers and public spaces to implement accommodations that many non-disabled people take for granted. It continues to be used as a legal foundation to ensure that people with disabilities can receive equal opportunities in all areas of their lives.
At IDHS, let's reflect on the accomplishments of the disability rights movement and its impact upon 61 million adults that live with a disability today. Let's look inward at our own work and consider how each of us can advance the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Maybe that means improving your division's disability access plans. Or reading, listening to, or watching works made by disabled artists. No matter your personal experience with disability, take a moment to celebrate how your life has improved due to this law.
Rahnee Patrick, Director of the Division of Rehabilitation Services, remembers when it was perfectly legal to deny her an accommodation to participate in a summer program for girls. As a junior in high school in the summer of 1990, Rahnee had been chosen to represent her community at Girls' State, a program to teach young women about the political system. Rahnee's psoriatic arthritis limited the distance she could walk, so she proposed to use a bicycle to be able to travel throughout the college campus where the event was being held. Because the ADA was not enacted, the organizers legally prevented her from using her bicycle, as what we now call a reasonable accommodation, to fully participate.
Day in and day out, employees across IDHS help ensure that Illinoisans with disabilities can access the essential services and programs that our State and federal government makes possible. I am proud to serve alongside individuals who are called to create an Illinois that is more accessible and inclusive. We have much work left to do, but I am grateful to everyone who has made today's progress possible.
Grace B. Hou