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The 28th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

July 26, 2018

 

Woman with long brown hair, seated with black labrador service dog next to her

Vivian Fridas with her service animal, Ditto

Vivian Fridas is USICD’s new Program Manager.  She has a master’s degree in Government and Politics with a concentration in International Relations from St. John’s University in New York and received a certificate in International Law and Diplomacy.  Most recently, Vivian worked at the Women’s Refugee Commission in their Disability Program where she assisted on projects that strengthened child protection and gender-based violence prevention and response strategies in Lebanon. Vivian travels with the assistance of a guide dog “Ditto” and is always happy to bring awareness around issues related to access of service dogs in public places.

 

 

Today we celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This groundbreaking piece of legislation signed by President George H.W. Bush prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, education, transportation, and all other public services open to the general public. As we mark this year’s anniversary, it is important to note the progress we have made and how far we still have to go to realize all people with disabilities have a fair and equal chance at living the life they want to live.

We have come a long way since the signing of the ADA in 1990. For example, protections extend to me and my guide dog when seeking to access public services such as transportation, hotel accommodations, or entering a restaurant. As a result, I am able to be a contributing member of society participating in all levels of community life. No longer am I denied services or access simply based on the fact that I have a disability.

This is not to say that discrimination against people with disabilities no longer exists and that all barriers have been eradicated. Personally, I have encountered countless instances where my guide dog and I were denied service in areas like restaurants or taxis. It is evident that continual awareness efforts and campaigns are needed for the public to understand the struggles facing people with disabilities on a daily basis. In addition, people with disabilities encounter a number of obstacles including high unemployment rates, negative social and attitudinal barriers, and lack of inclusive and accessible environments or technology. You may be aware of efforts under the current Administration to roll back and undermine important protections and programs for people with disabilities. The nation must come together to protect the rights of people with disabilities. This is a cross-cutting and intersecting issue. Disability does not care if you are a particular race, age, ethnicity, gender, or religion. This issue affects us all and thus demands the appropriate attention and action.

It is also critical to discuss the global influence and reach of the ADA. Indeed, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) was modeled after the ADA framework. To date, 177 countries have ratified the CRPD, though the United States is not one of them. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 15% of the world’s population has a disability with 80% living in developing countries. With one billion people having a disability, it is crucial their voices are heard and included throughout all levels of society. We will not be able to move forward if our most vulnerable and marginalized people are left behind.

This anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, celebrate by acknowledging all that has been achieved, but also take a moment to assess what more is needed so people with disabilities can participate equally in society. Please also consider donating to the United States International Council on Disabilities. Your support is greatly appreciated and will go a long way to fulfill our vision of a world where the equal rights of people with disabilities is protected and advanced, where the capacities and talents of people with disabilities is celebrated and elevated, and where people with disabilities come together across borders as a global disability community.

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