Twenty six years ago today, when President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, he called it “powerful in its simplicity” and explained, “It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so long and so hard: independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream.”
For more than two decades, the Department of Justice has worked tirelessly to enforce the ADA, ensuring that people with disabilities can live their lives with the autonomy, opportunity and dignity they deserve. Around the country, through litigation, technical assistance, guidance and regulatory work, we protect the rights of people with disabilities to vote, live, work and learn in their own communities, free from discrimination.
Today, Zavier no longer earns $1.70 per hour assembling small company parts. Instead, with employment support, he works at a local YMCA, helping kids complete their homework and resolve their conflicts. The agreement the department and private plaintiffs reached with Oregon last year will impact 7,000 Oregonians with disabilities – Oregonians, like Zavier, who can and want to work in typical community employment settings.
Today, because of reforms mandated by a 2015 Justice Department agreement in Robeson County, North Carolina, Jayla and other children in wheelchairs will soon get the chance to access their local playgrounds, to enjoy their childhood and to play with their siblings and friends, just as all kids deserve.
Today, because of a settlement agreement the department reached with Augusta County, Virginia, last year, voters with mobility or vision impairments can access their polling places, so they can participate in our democracy without facing unlawful, unnecessary barriers to the ballot box. To build on this work, last year we launched a new ADA Voting Initiative – in partnership with our U.S. Attorney colleagues – to ensure that people with disabilities get an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process, including in the 2016 presidential elections. And just last month, we also published technical assistance on polling place accessibility for voters with disabilities.