Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you for that kind introduction, Rebecca (Bond, Disability Rights Section Chief).
As a Chair of the Civil Rights Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC), I’m proud to be here representing the 93 U.S.Attorney’s Offices around the nation as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I am even prouder to be recognizing the ADA with my former AGAC Chair and current boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whose personal leadership on civil rights issues at this department dates back to her days as line assistant in Brooklyn. I experienced that leadership firsthand, through her successful push to engage the U.S.Attorneys to be more active and involved than ever in civil rights enforcement in the last six years.
It is also my honor to be here on the stage with my friend Vanita Gupta, the head of the Civil Rights Division, who is taking ADA enforcement and our partnership to new heights and with Senator Dole and Congressman Hoyer, who helped shepherd this groundbreaking bill through the halls of Congress.
And as a husband to a former staffer, but more importantly as an American, I would be remiss if I did not say a special word to a man whose career long drive made today possible. Senator Harkin – Thank you.
But I am deeply aware that the real genius and bravery leading this movement did not come from people like those of us up here on the stage today. It came from people like you.
The movement that led to the passage of the most comprehensive civil rights law of our time, the ADA, was and is a grassroots movement, sparked by vital leadership. I honor those heroes in the audience today who fought 25 years ago so that people all across the nation could benefit from these civil rights protections today. It was not easy, but when hurdle after hurdle was erected and when door after door was blocked, quite literally, you never gave up.
And you are still not giving up. So many of you here today and our brothers and sisters across the country are fighting the critical fights to enforce this important law on behalf of all the people of our nation. My orders, on behalf of this Attorney General and this President are to be there at your side and to work in partnership with the Civil Rights Division in aggressively enforcing the ADA’s broad provisions.
We have accomplished much – some cases grabbing headlines but many others just making life better for one family at a time. Over the past six years, U.S. Attorney’s offices across the country working with the Civil Rights Division have enjoyed a renewed emphasis on civil rights enforcement, including the ADA.
Each day, in some ways like a local legal services office, our teams discover problems firsthand. We take calls and complaints from people in the community who can’t get into our local restaurants or movie theaters because the owner hasn’t removed the steps that block the entrance, or have difficulty communicating with a doctor at a local hospital because the hospital does not have sign language interpreters.
For example, in the Western District of Texas, the United States, private plaintiffs and the state of Texas filed an interim settlement agreement to enable hundreds of Texans with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to live in the community, rather than nursing facilities, by expanding community alternatives.
And in the Northern District of Ohio, when one of our prominent snow birds, LeBron James, decided to bring his talents back home to Cleveland, we worked collaboratively with the Cavs and Quicken Loans Arena to make sure everyone on the North Coast could enjoy his return, adding wheelchair spaces and companion seats, captioning the scoreboard and arena announcements and modifying websites to make it easier for blind patrons to buy tickets.
So from hotels in Manhattan to lecture halls in Alabama, U.S. Attorneys’ continue their dedication to meaningful enforcement of the ADA in venues large and small. Working with the Civil Rights Division, we pledge to be your local access points to lasting equality.
So on today’s anniversary, congratulations for your leadership on the ADA’s 25th anniversary. And as for tomorrow, why don’t you give us a call – so we can all get right back to work.