By: Matt Galka
July 24, 2015
TALLAHASSEE -- Life wasn’t easy for Americans living with disabilities a quarter of a century ago. While the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities act is a cause for celebration, but doesn’t mean the work is done.
John Kemp says there’s no comparison between 2015 and 1990.
“It’s so much better today because of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” he said.
Kemp, a quadruple amputee, was instrumental in getting the law signed 25 years ago. It helped break down many walls there were holding people with disabilities back from living a normal life.
“The more that we’ve been able to include people with disabilities into the fabric for America, it lifts all boats, it increases the exchange, the understanding, and the appreciation of all people,” said Kemp.
Supporters marched through Florida’s Capital city to mark the 25th anniversary of the law that eliminated discrimination for people with disabilities. But many in attendance said there was still a lot of work to be done.
Florida disability advocate J.R. Harding agreed that things are better today.
“It’s like going from the dark ages to the light,” he said.
But the gaps remain in employment.
“If we’re truly to be sustainable, if we’re going to benefit from our diversity, and the richness and the talents of all people, individuals with disabilities need to be included,” said Harding.
Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says the state is doing everything it can to make sure students with disabilities aren’t left behind.
“We’ve done great work in the state of Florida with our students with disabilities and actually exceed the national average in our growth with students with disabilities,” said Stewart.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities hovers around 13 percent, a number many would like to see decrease dramatically in the next 25 years.
News Release: Agency for Persons with Disabilities
July 24, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, FL—Hundreds of people marched down Adams Street in Tallahassee this morning to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer said, “We are thrilled with the great turn out today to recognize this important civil rights legislation. The ADA provides vital access to buildings, jobs, and the entire community for individuals with disabilities. The world is a better place because of the ADA.”
Once the large crowd completed their walk, they gathered in Tallahassee City Hall to hear from a variety of speakers, including nationally known disability advocate John Kemp.
John Kemp said, “The passage of the ADA 25 years ago began a transformation in the way all of us think about people with disabilities and how we can be included in all societal activities. Real, meaningful employment remains our biggest obstacle; once the employer community views us as tremendous assets, we can start buying more goods and services, homes, cars, and generally becoming stronger members of our American economic communities with our paychecks. That day will come, I know, as the best talent in the world resides in our own backyards – Americans with disabilities!”
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said, “We are proud to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act here in the Capital City. This is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation that continues to provide a level playing field for all citizens, and ensure lifelong success in the workforce and beyond.”
“In Leon County Government, we know change doesn't occur in a vacuum,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Mary Ann Lindley. “It requires meaningful community engagement. Every day, Leon County goes beyond listening and engaging and puts ideals into action. In fact, leaders in the disability community help us shape our community for generations to come.”
Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Florida Chester Spellman presented a Champion of Service Award to Tallahassee resident and disability parent and advocate Lou Ogburn. “As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Volunteer Florida is proud to partner with APD to honor Floridians who have volunteered their time to serve those with unique abilities,” said Spellman. “I am proud to recognize Lou Ogburn today with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award. For 50 years, Lou has been a tireless advocate for Floridians with unique abilities, and we are grateful for her service and her leadership.”
After the program, participants walked to the Capitol Courtyard for music and fun activities. Marchers were treated to a free lunch provided by Outback Steakhouse. There were face painters, balloon artists, and musical groups that performed.
On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law. The ADA has made a tremendous impact on American life and culture. The ADA is an important civil rights act designed to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else.
Some of the organizations sponsoring this event were the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Ability 1st, City of Tallahassee, Leon County, Tallahassee Community College, Able Trust, Blind Services, Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged, Vocational Rehabilitation, Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, Family Network on Disabilities, Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living, Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, and many others.