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Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of an historic piece of legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For the millions of Americans living with a disability, the ADA provides protection from discrimination and guarantees equal opportunities in order to promote accommodations that can help people live full, productive lives. As someone in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder, I strongly share this ideal.
Just as people with physical disabilities benefit under the ADA, people in recovery from substance use disorders are also protected by this landmark legislation.  Our communities have a lot in common – we both face some of the same discrimination, stigma, and historical restriction of opportunities. Our shared experience brings us together.

With approximately 56.7 million Americans living with a disability and an estimated 21.6 million Americans living with a substance use disorder, we are a significant portion of the US population.1 2 Despite our numbers, we still face stigma and discrimination in healthcare, education, housing, and employment. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is working to dismantle the stigma experienced by individuals with substance use disorders, just as the National Council on Disability (NCD) and many others are working to abolish discrimination and stigma surrounding all disabilities.  If we combine our numbers, our voices, and our collective experience, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard in all walks of life. 

As we celebrate the ADA, let us commit to join forces to address the common challenges faced by our communities. Together, we can work on increasing access to treatment for all people and create a higher standard of care and accommodations through cultural competency training. We can make a significant impact in destigmatizing disability, encouraging compassion and tolerance, and advocating for equality for all persons.  

We can carry out that work today, as we celebrate the ADA. But we can also continue that work as we celebrate National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Each September, ONDCP joins with the millions of people in recovery to observe Recovery Month, and I want to ask you to join the celebration. This year the theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!” 

Together, we can join voices to reduce stigma and spread our shared message of effective treatment and successful recovery for anybody with a substance use disorder or disability.

For more resources and to learn more, please visit these links: 

1. 2010 Census data,
2. 2013 National Drug Use and Health Survey,