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ADA: Nineteen Years of Progress in Ohio

July 29, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio - This week the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is 19 years old, and advocates for people with disabilities in Ohio say it's a birthday worth celebrating, because the rewards over the years have been numerous.

The measure prohibits discrimination in a wide range of employment and public accommodation situations. Ohio State University's ADA Coordinator, Scott Lissner, calls it a landmark piece of legislation.

"The Americans with Disabilities Act is really rooted in civil rights legislation and so, it really is as meaningful - it is the most recent extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

Lissner says the ADA freed people with disabilities by banning discrimination in such arenas as employment, insurance, and government programs. It eliminated not only physical barriers, but unfair stereotypes.

"It has certainly meant a lot in terms of improving equal access to employment, to places of public accommodations, to being able to go to the restaurant, go to the movie theater and actually participate in society."

Lissner says over the past 19 years, the ADA has expanded to include a wider range of influence - a trend he believes will continue.

"There are people who are included now that, 19 years ago, weren't. And there are always some folks who are pushing the boundaries of that circle - and it's nice that the circle is getting wider."

This week, in signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, President Barack Obama noted that the ADA was created by people who, in his words, "refused to accept second-class status in America."

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH