This month marks the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s a civil rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination against people based on their disability.
The ADA applies to discrimination in employment, state and local government services, privately operated public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications.
The Center for Independence Inc. and The Arc of Florida, nonprofit organizations that advocate on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, have seen positive changes in these areas since the ADA was signed into law in 1990. Just a few years before its passage, many Floridians with intellectual and development disabilities (I/DD) were institutionalized. Today, many are living and working in their communities.
Although great strides have been made in our society, discrimination still exists. Attitudes, poor enforcement of the law, underfunded programs and fiscal difficulties in state and local government budgets all contribute to the ongoing need to be vigilant advocates for full inclusion and equality.
There are still issues in Florida. In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case, Olmstead v. L.C., that unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions is a form of discrimination. Despite this, our state continues to house some individuals with I/DD in institutions and children in nursing homes.
We hope our elected leaders will work to fund additional community-based programs, ensuring that all Floridians are treated equally and able to live in the community, where they belong.
New Port Richey
The writer is development director for The Center for Independence Inc.