The following post appears courtesy of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Thomas E. Perez
The Department of Justice is proud to mark the 22nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has revolutionized the way our society thinks about people with disabilities and has revolutionized the way people with disabilities live in our communities. Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of the disability rights community and look forward to meeting the challenges that still lie ahead.The attorneys, investigators, architects, technical assistance experts and other staff of the Civil Rights Division are committed to enforcing the ADA. Yesterday we reached the 200th agreement of the Project Civic Access initiative – with Kansas City, Mo. Through Project Civic Access, the department has helped more than 4.5 million people with disabilities gain access to all aspects of their local governments, in every state in the country and in communities large and small. The division has also been enforcing the ADA in education, including requiring needed accommodations for students and ensuring that high-stakes tests are offered in a way that best ensures that the tests measure knowledge and skill – and not disability. We are also challenging some testing providers’ practice of “flagging” the scores of students who get accommodations, thus undermining their perceived validity. The division is also applying the ADA to new technologies and the Internet. While technology can create new opportunities for people with disabilities, we must ensure that technologies like websites and e-book readers are accessible to everyone who needs to use them. Applying the ADA’s integration regulation, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C., the department has participated in over 40 cases involving people with disabilities unnecessarily placed in institutions in 25 states since the start of the Obama Administration. We recently settled with Virginia to change their system of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from one that relies heavily on institutions to one that offers a range of services for people in their homes. The division has expanded its Olmstead work to look beyond just where people live to consider how people live as well. Simply moving someone from an institution to a community home doesn’t achieve integration if that person is still denied the opportunity to do what we all do – work in the community. Therefore, we recently issued a letter of findings of Olmstead violations in Oregon’s employment services system because the state unnecessarily segregates in sheltered workshops people who could, and want to, work in integrated employment. We are also working to protect one of the most basic rights: access to health care. Today we announced the Barrier Free Health Care Initiative where 35 U.S. Attorney’s offices across the country will work with the division to target enforcement on the critical area of access to health care for people with disabilities. Initially the program will focus on effective communication for people who are deaf or who have hearing loss. In the 22 years since the passage of the ADA, our nation has come a long way, and we are a better nation as a result. While much remains to be done – both here at home and across the globe, our new initiatives, together with the department’s ongoing vigorous ADA enforcement and the tireless efforts of disability advocates and partner agencies, will open more doors for millions of people with disabilities and their families.