Disability Rights Take Center Stage As President, Stars Honor ADA Birthday
A star-studded White House celebration marked the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act Monday, the same day President Barack Obama took to the airwaves with a new public service announcement honoring the cause.
In an address on the South Lawn, Obama called the legislation “one of the most comprehensive civil rights bills in the history of the country” and spoke about the important social and economic gains that the ADA provided by ensuring that all Americans could contribute their talents despite any disability.
Obama’s remarks at the White House Monday evening followed performances by musician Nathaniel Ayers, singer Patti LaBelle who is diabetic and a speech from actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf. Ayers has schizophrenia and was the subject of the 2009 film The Soloist starring Jamie Foxx. He previously lived on the streets of Los Angeles after dropping out of Juilliard and being institutionalized.
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The president also noted that much has yet to be accomplished. In that vein, Obama signed an executive order aimed at increasing employment of people with disabilities in federal jobs. What’s more, he said the Justice Department would issue new rules updating ADA building standards to reflect modern times and noted that the agency is working on rules to require Web sites to be fully accessible.
Obama expressed similar sentiments in a series of radio and television ads that will begin airing across the country immediately.
“Twenty years ago the Americans with Disabilities Act guaranteed every person the right to live, work and participate fully in the American experience,” Obama says in one of the ads. “We’ve come a long way since then and we are committed to making even more progress in the years ahead.”
Noting that 50 million Americans are living with a disability, Obama refers viewers to Disability.gov, a federal government Web site, to learn more about how to support people with disabilities.
The ads were produced in conjunction with the Ad Council and the American Association of People with Disabilities and will air in donated advertising time.