By Rose Hoban
Aside from movement on the ABLE Act (see today’s other story), advocates for people with disabilities have another reason to celebrate this week: July 26 is the 25th birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law by President George H..W. Bush in 1990.
There wasn’t a cake, but there were balloons and refreshments at a “birthday party” held at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, where advocates presented the Triangle Access Awards, which honor people who have made strides in helping people with disabilities.
“This is the signature event for the Alliance of Disability Advocates,” said Chris Evans, head of the N.C. Council on Developmental Disabilities, another group that collaborated on the event and is coordinating events around the state.
“It really recognizes strides made in this area, with local businesses and individuals promoting the ADA,” Evans said.
The categories for the awards include honoring efforts to improve communication for people with disabilities, remove architectural barriers, advance technologies that help people with disabilities and create opportunities for people with disabilities. Most significantly, the awards honor efforts to change attitudes about disability.
“Each of you helped to uphold the principles of the ADA by working to create an inclusive environment,” said state Health and Human Services Sec. Aldona Wos, who attended the event and read a declaration from Gov. Pat McCrory naming Tuesday “ADA Day.”
Wos noted that while there’s been a lot of progress, there is still stigma that keeps people with disabilities from achieving what they want to in life.
In particular, employment remains a big issue for people with disabilities.
“Depending on what statistics you look at, at least 80 percent of people with developmental and other disabilities remain unemployed or underemployed,” Evans said. “So while we made a lot of progress when it comes to awareness, access and opportunities for people, there are still areas where we have plenty to do.”
Two of the award recipients were Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Cary) and Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Raleigh), who both have worked this legislative session to pass the ABLE Act along with other pieces of legislation that benefit people with disabilities.
Along with other individuals, awardees included the N.C. Coastal Pines chapter of the Girl Scouts; NCSU Housing Conference Services; the Goodwill Community Foundation’s Learn Free, which teaches computer and web skills online; the Contemporary Art Museum; the Durham Bulls Athletic Park; and Creativity in Motion, a program that provides individualized academic and dance instruction to kids with disabilities.