Commemorating the 33rd Anniversary of the ADA

On the 33rd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we commemorate rather than celebrate its enactment. While it’s important to recognize how far society has come due to disabled activists’ tireless work to push for the passage of the ADA, we must remember that many of the promises of the ADA remain unrealized 33 years later.

People with disabilities still encounter disaster shelters and disaster recovery centers that are physically inaccessible, and do not provide ADA-mandated sign language interpreters or material in accessible format. We are often turned away from shelters for being disabled or relegated to segregated “special needs” shelters, if not altogether hauled away to a nursing institution.

Despite the Supreme Court mandate of the Olmstead decision to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the person, countless disabled siblings who have been conscripted to nursing facilities and other institutions have died or lost their liberty. We know that people with multiple marginalized identities are disproportionately institutionalized and discriminated against. As we mourn our disabled siblings who have died in institutions this year, we also mourn the passing of Lois Curtis, one of the named plaintiffs in the Olmstead case; former Senator and former Connecticut Governor, Lowell P. Weicker Jr, one of the architects of the ADA; Judy Heumann, who is often described as the founding mother of the disability rights movement; as well as countless others who advocated for the rights of people with disabilities.

In the spirit of labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill who proclaimed, “Don’t mourn, organize!” The Partnership is challenging you to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the ADA and honor the passing of disabled leaders who have passed this year including those who died in institutions. Consider taking steps to move the mandate of the ADA forward to protect the rights of people with disabilities in disasters and emergencies. 

Here are some examples of things you could do:

  • Learn something new about the ADA as it applies to disabled people in disasters. Feel free to check on The Partnership website for info.
  • Learn something new about disproportionate institutionalization of people of color and other disabled people with marginalized identities.
  • Share this information with others in person and via email or social media. 
  • Organize a group of disabled people sharing information about what they can do to stay out of institutions during disasters.
  • If you think your rights were violated in a disaster, file a complaint or when appropriate, consider litigation. 
  • If you know someone with a disability who believes that their rights were violated during a disaster, support them in filing a complaint.
  • Bring instances of both ADA compliance and ADA noncompliance to the attention of the press by writing an op-ed piece, organizing a press conference, or contacting a reporter.

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