Sunday, May 16, 2010

ADA 20th Anniversary

On July 20, the disability community will gather in Washington D.C. to celebrate the Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Each year, the disability community recognizes the anniversary in order to highlight accomplishments and build support for more that can be done with what is the most important piece of civil rights legislation for people with disabilities.

The celebration on July 20 will be different from years' past for at least one reason. This year, the law turns 20 years old, a significant and notable anniversary. By trade a public relations person in the field of disability, I pitch stories on the Americans with Disabilities Act every year. Often the pitches fall into the dirt. Last year, pitching an op/ed to a local paper, I was told most anniversaries are boring, not worth covering. But whether it be a marriage or civil rights legislation, 20 years is significant. And while an anniversary in and of itself may not be news worthy, the energy around disability rights is. With the new administration in Washington D.C., there is new vibrancy in the disability community. Whether people with disabilities are republican or democrat, most people recognize there is potential for change, and a diverse group of disability groups are banding together in order to create positive change. That energy for change will be alive and thriving in DC on July 20 at the anniversary celebration.

I hope this year's anniversary is different for at least one more reason. Unlike some notable ADA events of the past, I hope Little People of America will be a part of the celebration on July 20. In terms of participating with the at-large disability community, LPA has made important strides over the past few years, joining and engaging in coalitions that push for the implementation of rights for people with disabilities. We are building a stronger presence in the disability community. Participation of LPA on July 20 is an important step in that process.

With reality shows consistently pushing a message of acceptance of dwarfism and with LPA's recent outreach efforts around the word "midget," I believe more minds are open around the country than ever before. We've earned support from the at-large community, but in order to continue making positive changes, we need to build more partnerships from the within the disability community. We need to ally with groups that may have similar interests and we need to build support from groups that could help us in areas such as health care, reproductive rights and employment. The July 20 event is an opportunity to build some support.

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