Steve Heronemus

Celebrating 25 Years of Inclusion

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a landmark in civil rights legislation. Less than a generation ago people living with physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities were largely shut out of employment opportunities, shut out of community life, and shut in their homes. We were invisible and deemed insignificant.
I benefit every day from the ADA. I was employed for 7 years after my diagnosis of ALS, worked long after my hands were paralyzed and in a wheelchair, even after my voice was affected. I can go to the symphony,  movies,  theatre,  grocery store,  church, and virtually anywhere else I want. I can write a blog and participate in civic life. I can even sail. My life is full, productive, and enjoyable. 
We have come so very far in the past 25 years, but there is still work to do. My employment and participation is due in part to the resources I and my community invested in my well-being; my opportunities are not the same in the whole population. Mental health and cognitive disabilities are still stigmatized. Unemployment among the disabled is still more than double the general population, due to underemployment of disabled veterans and workplace technology outpacing technology availability and affordability. We struggle with insurance systems caught in a pre-ADA mentality, covering items necessary to be safe at home but denying coverage to help us be employed, productive citizens. 
There are 55 million people living with disabilities in the United States, making us the largest protected minority population. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a real success story of government intervention, but it still has limitations. Let’s celebrate our successes today, but work in cooperation with businesses,  governments and nonprofit agencies to keep forward progress going.