ADA Law Turns 20

It’s the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. For me personally, it’s a bit of a mind-bender to think that it wasn’t until 1990 we first recognized, in law, the civil rights of people with disabilities.  On the other hand, it’s also only been in the last hundred years we’ve been addressing civil rights of any kind through law, trusted women to vote, made Jim Crow laws a thing of the past, etc.  Technology and medical advancement moves fast in America–social justice a little slower.

That’s why I am not surprised to see the story of a local republican lawmaker suggesting we simply can’t spend government money on educating disabled kids in this morning’s Outstate Politics , or why I am unflapped by the fact that it’s still painfully common to find stories of  some Christian churches referring to ADA protections as expensive “liberal nonsense.” That’s why my heart is blunted to the fact that the IDEA law, designed to guarantee quality and approriate education to disabled kids, wasn’t enacted until just 6 years ago–one year before the birth of my beautiful autistic boy–and to the fact that the Family Medical Leave Act, while a landmark legislative achievement, still hasn’t got a tooth of enforcement in it’s head.

So while I do indeed celebrate this anniversary and all the access it has provided to those of us differently-abled, I also mark it as a time to consider how far we still have to go in providing not just promises of rights, but social and political climate in which the promises of law are unfailingly kept.

* Note: DFL-endorsed candidate for Lieutenant Governor John Gunyou will participate in the American with Disabilities Act 20th Anniversary Celebration today at 40 Power Street, Minneapolis (11 a.m.).

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