The ADA at 25
I am proud to have stood on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and cast a vote in favor of the Americans with Disabilities Act 25 years ago. Since its passage, the ADA has empowered millions of Americans who for too long languished in the shadows of exclusion and bigotry. The unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities has plummeted, access to public accommodations and transportation has expanded dramatically, and innovations in technology allow those who are blind, deaf, or incapable of speech to connect and interact with people and media in ways that were once unfeasible.
By expanding employment opportunities, improving accessibility, and providing legal remedies to counter subtle and overt prejudices, the ADA helps guarantee equal rights for every American, regardless of physical aptitude.
However, despite the enormous strides that have been made, our journey towards equal protection and equal dignity is not complete. Americans with disabilities still face an unemployment rate more than twice the national average. Sheltered workshops, which may legally pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage, also pose a significant obstacle on the path toward economic independence. We must continue to work to ensure that all Americans enjoy equal protection from discrimination.
It is in this spirit of equity and fairness, and in celebrating this historic piece of legislation, that I also call upon my colleagues in the United States Senate to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Widely considered to be the gold standard of disability civil rights legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act serves as the framework for this treaty, which would codify the protections afforded to people with disabilities here in the United States for millions of people around the globe. In joining the community of nations who have signed on to this groundbreaking treaty, we can mark the 25th anniversary of the ADA not just with celebration, but with progress.