August 8, 2010 (RALEIGH, NC) – This summer, the nation is observing the 20th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act that was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The ADA is a sweeping civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
Recently, Sam Hedrick, president of RHA Howell, Inc., a statewide organization in North Carolina that has been serving people with disabilities and their families for over 35 years, paused to reflect on the successes and on-going challenges for the ADA. Hedrick is also the mother of a child with disabilities and a member of the board of directors of the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), a nonprofit trade association representing more than 800 private providers of services and supports for Americans with disabilities.
Question: What do you feel has been the greatest impact of the ADA?
Hedrick: “Some of the greatest success to date has been around making our communities and public buildings more accessible to people with disabilities. There was a time that people in wheelchairs could not navigate outside their homes just to accomplish necessary daily activities. Wheelchair-accessible public transportation is also available now in many cities and towns, thanks largely to the ADA. So in many respects, the ADA made it possible for people with disabilities to become independent and to live and participate in their communities more freely for the first time.”
Q. What has yet to be fully enforced, or what is still lacking despite the ADA?
Hedrick: “People with disabilities still do not earn equal and fair wages for many jobs. According to the American Association of People with Disabilities, on a national average, 16.9 percent of Americans with disabilities are unemployed, versus 9.3 percent who are not living with a disability.
“Housing and public transportation are also still often out of reach for most people with disabilities, which prevents them from living as fully participating citizens in the communities of their own choices.
“President Obama is making great efforts to correct some of these inequities through HUD grants and the Affordable Care Act, but discrimination continues to exist in our country today.”
Q. What do you see as priorities for current advocates for Americans with disabilities?
Hedrick: “Some of the on-going challenges we must overcome are:
(1) Infants, children and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities must have the opportunity to be supported at home and to succeed in school. They should be included in all of the experiences of childhood.
(2) Adults with disabilities need to lead lives of their own choosing and to be free from poverty and free from fear of having their life-line services cut.
(3) People with disabilities need to be included in civic activities and to have their voices heard politically.
(4) Accessible low-income housing must be available in our communities and wheelchair-accessible public transportation must be available in more cities across America.
(5) We need to provide meaningful and equal-paying jobs for productive work for all people.
(6) Health care must be affordable and available to people with disabilities, and ‘wellness’ and preventative care must be a priority within it.”
For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, go to www.ada.gov.
For more information on RHA Howell, visit www.rhahowell.org.
About RHA Howell, Inc.:
RHA Howell is a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that has been helping people with disabilities and special needs, and their families, make choices to live more independently for more than 35 years. Integrity, high standards for quality, hard work are at the core of every RHA Howell disability assistance program. Proven leaders in caring for people, RHA Howell, Inc. is a pioneering force in the field of human services, particularly supporting infants and children. For more information, go to www.rhahowell.org.