Thirty years ago this week, President George H. W. Bush took one of the most significant actions of his presidency — he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. Disability joined race, religion, sex and national origin as protected classes against discrimination. The law went further than the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in one important regard. It required that accommodations be made for Americans with disabilities in the workplace and especially in all public institutions.
One of the most important is schools.
It’s probably hard to imagine for young people today, but schools were not always accessible for students with physical disabilities. The fact that physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, special education teachers and direct support providers are there for students with developmental disabilities in our schools is part of this law’s legacy, too.
It’s a reminder of why it’s so important to get our kids back to school this fall. It’s nearly impossible for students with developmental disabilities to replicate their individual education plan at home without the array of talented and dedicated professionals providing the attention and care that the ADA was crafted to deliver.
For years, our conference has been fighting side by side with advocates who want to help New Yorkers with disabilities to live healthier, more rewarding lives. We secured a needed pay raise for direct-support professionals, and we’re fighting to do it again.
When the governor tried to cut $90 million from OPWDD during his first term, our conference made restoring the funding our top budget priority.
We got it done. And when families shared with us grave concerns about what would happen to their adult children with disabilities when they passed away, we launched a statewide task force to get them answers.
There’s much more work to do to make our country truly accessible and inclusive. Our conference has shown that the best way forward is a simple one. Listen to the community, and then fight for what they need.
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York state. You can always contact my district office at 315-781-2030, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook.
New York State Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R, represents the 131st District, which includes Ontario County and part of Seneca County.