This Friday, July 26th, marks the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a landmark law that profoundly changed our nation. On the trajectory of forming a more perfect union, the passage of the ADA in 1990 was a major step forward in keeping a key promise of the American experiment: ensuring equal opportunity for all. This is personally important to me. As an immigrant, as an African American woman, as a civil rights attorney and as a deaf person, the ADA is more than just a law. It is a concrete symbol of hope and opportunity for me, for my family and for the millions of Americans with disabilities who simply want the chance to be full and active members of our society, participants in our democracy and our economy who can be self-sufficient.
The ADA promised equal access in workplaces and educational institutions, and in the transportation required to get there. It provided for full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for those of us living with disabilities. It also gives Americans with disabilities avenues to pursue legal remedies to safeguard all of those rights. As we have learned, time and again, the only way to safeguard the hard-fought rights of the 20th century is to fight to preserve them in the 21st century. That is why President Obama has marshaled the resources of his Administration to advance the goals of the ADA so that it is not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, that's being applied all across this country.
This Thursday, July 25, the White House Office of Public Engagement will host an event from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM (EDT) to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the ADA. We invite you to participate from your communities via the live web stream at whitehouse.gov/live. Our conversation will include remarks from Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz You will also have the opportunity to hear from leaders from across the federal government about some of the important work that is happening in the agencies to protect the rights of, and participation by, people with disabilities in our communities. And I am looking forward to introducing you to eight incredible young people who we will be honoring as “Champions of Change” for their advocacy efforts, their innovative projects and their embodiment of the spirit of the ADA. The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. This live stream will be closed captioned.
I hope you will join us on Thursday to watch, to learn, to celebrate and to recommit ourselves to upholding and enhancing the principles of the ADA. To watch this event live, visit obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/live at 11:00 am EDT on July 25th.
Claudia Gordon is an Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.