For generations, millions of people with disabilities lived as second-rate citizens in a society based on the promise that “All men are created equal” and where “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” are considered unalienable rights. People with disabilities were routinely sterilized and institutionalized. There were no laws to ensure access to or a benefit from the most basic of freedoms a majority of Americans have always taken for granted. The general mentality was “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”
Then came the emergence of the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movements. People with disabilities who had traditionally been isolated, not only from the mainstream of society, but from one another began coming together to speak out and demand an end to unequal treatment seeking control over their own lives, social status, and an overall better way of life and an equal opportunity not just to succeed but to simply live life on their own terms.
The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movements have played crucial roles in the development of state and federal disability policy leading up to and including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Upon passage of the ADA on July 26th, 1990, President George H.W. Bush described the ADA as “the world’s first comprehensive declaration of the equality of people with disabilities,” declaring that “every man woman and child with a disability can now pass through once closed doors, into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”
Since that July day 20 years ago, a lot has changed. It is now illegal for the government and employers to discriminate on the basis of disability, public places and businesses must now be accessible to people with disabilities, educational services must be available to and usable by people with disabilities, and more. However, some of this change has been slow and much is yet to be done. Many communities still have a long ways to go to becoming fully accessible and all to often disability still carries with it a negative connotation in society.
Yet, while there is still much more work for us to do for millions of Americans with disabilities to realize the full potential of the ADA, we have come a long way since 1990 and with the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act fast approaching, we have plenty to celebrate and on July 26, 2010, we will do just that.
On the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Montana’s Centers for Independent Living will hold a celebration of the ADA where we will reflect on where we were, celebrate how far we’ve come, and reaffirm our commitment to move forward in our work towards ensuring that all Americans, including people with disabilities, have full access to their rights of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” through full participation and equal opportunities in all areas of life.
The ADA celebration will take place Monday, July 26th, 2010 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm we will be holding a 20th anniversary celebration in honor of the ADA at Fort Missoula in Missoula. The celebration will include barbeque and other good food, speakers, activities and music.
Then we will finish up with a second ADA celebration in partnership with the Missoula Out To Lunch event on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 from 11 am to 1 pm during the Out To Lunch event at Caras Park.
In conjunction with ADA’s 20th anniversary and the Missoula ADA celebrations, we will also be hosting our 2010 Legislative Symposium at the Hilton Garden Inn in Missoula on July 26th & 27th. This year’s symposium, entitled “You Have the Power. Live the Dream,” will have a strong focus on the ADA as well as provide us the opportunity to bring advocates from across the state together to start finalizing the legislative priorities we will be focusing on during the 2011 Legislative Session.
If you are interested in attending this year’s symposium, please contact the Summit office in Missoula at 406-728-1630 or, if you do not live in Summit’s service area, the IL Center closest to you. There will also be vendor opportunities at this year’s symposium. If you or your business, organization, or agency are interested in having a vendor booth at the July symposium to give out information, demonstrate a product, or to simply just promote yourself, please contact the Summit office in Missoula for availability and pricing.
We look forward to seeing you for these exciting events come July but in the meantime, please take the late Justin Dart’s advice and…LEAD ON!