“It was ability that mattered, not disability, which is a word I’m not crazy about using.” –Marlee Matlin
This week I had the opportunity to attend a White House function for the anniversary of the passing of the ADA. The day was hot and muggy, but the excitement in the air was palpable. Approximately 400 guests had come out to see President Obama speak about the 20 years of the ADA and what was yet to come. We waited in anticipation while various speakers and entertainers preceded Mr. Obama. Among those present were Pattie LaBelle, Robert David Hall, and the woman I quoted above, Marlee Matlin. After much ado, the President himself spoke to the audience. He cited the legislation that has shaped the past 20 years for Americans with Disabilities, and he went on to expand upon the issues our community still faces, including high unemployment rates. After speaking about this problem, Obama then held a short ceremony in which he signed an Executive Order which established the federal government as a model employer of persons with disabilities. While this is a grand gesture of welcome to the disability community, I am not sure if it is quite enough to get the rest of America to follow suit. I have seen for myself that our federal government has gone to great lengths to hire individuals with disabilities in DC, and I certainly appreciate their efforts, but not everyone has skills or an interest that is applicable to Washington, DC. I really hope that private corporations and small businesses will take Washington’s lead and learn from it.
Later that evening, the Disability Power and Pride organization held a gala celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ADA as well. Jonathan Young was generous enough to sponsor tickets for each of the AAPD interns and intern alums who are still in DC. I really appreciate his graciousness because I would not have had the opportunity to attend this function without his support. Quite a few people spoke at this event also, among them were Tony Coelho, Congressman Sensenbrenner, Congressman Hoyer, and Congressman Langevin. Afterwards, live music was provided for the guests’ entertainment. This was the last formal event that all of the AAPD interns attended together, and I think it was a great way to wrap up the summer. I certainly know that these past couple weeks surrounding the ADA anniversary have taught me a lot about the disability community as a whole, and I am very proud to say that I am a member of this vast group. Until next time,