Today, July 26, 2013 marks the 23rd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended in 2008. The Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly referred to as the ADA, is the historic civil rights law that affirmed Americans with disabilities are Americans first. The ADA affirms equality and inclusion for all, Americans who can participate in society, contribute to our economy, and support their family.
The overall purpose of the ADA is to make American society more accessible to people with disabilities. With the theme, “ADA Breaking Down the Barriers” barriers that keep persons with disabilities from reaching their fullest potential; from reaching their fullest measure of happiness, we must work together. We encourage persons with disabilities to become aware of the government agencies, programs and other organizations in the Territory that are working to implement the ADA law, as amended in 2008, and facilitate broader awareness about the services offered to help create an inclusive society.
The Americans with Disabilities Act opened doors to opportunity for millions of Americans, yet despite the gains we have made, independence and freedom from discrimination remain out of reach for too many individuals with disabilities; we clearly have more to do to create a more accessible nation.
Building on the legacy set forth by the ADA, the Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to children with disabilities because of ‘pre-existing’ conditions, medical history, or genetic information. Medicare and Medicaid have been strengthened, and the Administration for Community Living at the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services has been established to ensure that people with disabilities have the support they need to live with respect and dignity in their communities, and to be fully included.
Work-Able is proud to join our Governor and a coalition of government agencies, councils and community-based organizations that have dedicated themselves to helping people with disabilities live more independently, to thrive as professionals, and take full advantage of all that our Territory has to offer. We endeavor to do whatever we can to help improve the quality of the lives of people with disabilities in the U. S. Virgin Islands.
As we celebrate this milestone, and reflect on the barriers that still remain, we pay tribute to the courageous individuals and organizations that have made this progress possible. We celebrate the contributions Americans with Disabilities have made to our Territory and to our Nation. Let us uphold the spirit of equality, inclusiveness, and opportunity; and rededicate ourselves to empowering every individual with the principals of equal access and equal opportunity.
Editor’s note: Gwendolyn T. Powell serves as executive director of Work-Able Inc. She is currently serving as co-chair of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA)-Region II Health Equity Council with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health.