BOSTON (State House News Service) – As the Americans With Disabilities Act hits its 25-year anniversary, Remond Jourdan, an advocate for Multi-cultural Independent Living Center of Boston, says he didn’t really experience the law’s impacts or realize where changes needed to be made until 13 years ago.
That’s when “my life basically changed” Jourdan said.
Jourdan was heading home from work when he says he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. He suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. “I had no knowledge of what the disabilities community was having to deal with in terms of challenges and their daily routines, but I learned quickly,” Jourdan told the News Service after performing on stage at an ADA celebration on Boston Common.
Now an advocate for the disabled, Jourdan joined hundreds, including others with disabilities, caretakers and public officials who came out to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the ADA.
The ADA was signed into law by George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. The law prohibits discrimination against people with both mental and physical medical conditions and guarantees people with disabilities have the same opportunities as others.
Wednesday’s program started with a march followed by an array of speakers including Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who said the act is “one that ensures that 735,000 persons with disablities in Massachusetts may live full and participatory lives.” Attorney General Maura Healey and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz were among the other state officials who attended the event.
Keynote speaker Dr. Cheri Blauwet, a multi-time Paralympian and two-time Boston Marathon Champion called the law “empowering.”
“As a member of the ADA generation” – a group Blauwet refers to as those who came of age following the passage of the ADA – “I was able to dream big and work hard and chose my own destiny rather than being judged simply by my disability.”
President Barack Obama highlighted the anniversary, calling it a “celebration of our history” in remarks delivered at the White House. The president also discussed work that still needs to be done to address unemployment and lack of access to skills training among people with disabilities.
Jourdan agrees that more needs to be done. “Sometimes it seems as we’re asking for a handout or something. But these are just basic needs that all citizens should be allowed to have. Getting by on a sidewalk, being able to work, just simple things . . . these are not special needs. These are needs that everybody has.”
Copyright 2015 State House News Service