People of All Abilities Celebrate 20th Anniversary of Historic Legislation

On Thursday, July 15, the Oswego County Legislature proclaimed that July 26, 2010 is Disabilities Awareness Day. The date has special meaning for individuals with disabilities, their families, friends and loved ones.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark piece of legislation that guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities in public accommodations, commercial facilities, employment, transportation, government services, and telecommunications. It is the product of decades of work that has changed public perception of disability, and an acknowledgement that for individuals with disabilities equal rights require equal access. This July marks the 20th Anniversary of the ADA being signed into law, changing the lives of millions of people.

There are currently over 54 million Americans who have a disability of some sort, eleven million of whom need personal assistance with everyday activities. Twenty years ago, many of these individuals would have been segregated from society and living in institutionalized housing. Today, these individuals live, work and take an active role in their communities, including here in Central New York. A person’s disability does not diminish his or her right to live independently, make choices, pursue careers, or make significant contributions to society.

“I have lived the ADA from its beginning and still live it every day,” said Jim Cronk, an ARISE Independent Living Services Representative. An accident in 1984 left him a quadriplegic; however he believes the ADA has helped him be active in the community through employment and transportation opportunities. “It has given me a chance to prove my abilities to myself and to others… Without the ADA, I fear my life would be a mere existence.”
Centers for Independent Living, like ARISE, are at the forefront of helping individuals with disabilities to pursue their dreams. ARISE’s programs and services are guided by individuals with disabilities; the people who know best what supports are needed to live independently. Since its founding in 1979, ARISE has grown and responded to the changing needs of individuals with disabilities.

As we celebrate the anniversary of the ADA, there is still much work to do. Individuals with disabilities are employed at a much lower rate than individuals without a disability. ARISE’s employment programs work with government and businesses to help individuals with disabilities find and retain meaningful employment. Many new homes are constructed each year using government funds, yet the houses are not designed to be accessible. Each and every day, ARISE works to help individuals achieve the greatest degree of independence and access, works to break down barriers to that independence, and works to change misperceptions about individuals with disabilities.

“I’m thankful every day for the opportunities I’ve been given!” Cronk concludes.

For more information on the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act, contact Sabine Ingerson, Director of the Oswego Office at 342-4088 ext. 210