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 Home > News & Policies > July 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 26, 2001

Statement by the President

Eleven years ago today, people from across America gathered to celebrate the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), one of the Nation's most important civil rights laws since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ADA opened up the true promise of America to people with disabilities who, for far too long, have found impediments to getting an education, getting a job, or just getting around. President Bush meets with Erik Weihenmeyer (far left), 32, of Golden, Colorado, and his friends to the Oval Office July 26, 2001. Mr. Weihenmeyer was the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest May 25, 2001. After losing his sight to retinoscheses at the age of 13, he began rock climbing at the age of 16. White House photo by Paul Morse.

I am proud that my father saw the need for a comprehensive law to liberate the energies and talents of people with disabilities, and who worked with the Congress to make the ADA a reality.

Much has been accomplished in the past 11 years. Attitudes are changing and barriers are coming down all across America. Employers now provide a range of "accommodations" to ensure that employees with disabilities can keep their place in the wage-earning world, resulting in unprecedented economic opportunities. And, outside of the workplace, the promise of the ADA, coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector, has enabled people with disabilities to enjoy much greater access to a wide range of affordable travel, recreational opportunities, and life-enriching services.

Because of the ADA, people with disabilities are gaining equal access to public sector services. And the public sector has rallied to the ADA's goals. From improving access at town halls and courthouses to providing accessible parking to assistive listening devices at public meetings, States and local governments have developed some of the most innovative and meaningful responses to the ADA. In addition, my Administration is committed to full and effective implementation of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which will help ensure that people of all abilities can access government information and online services. My Administration is working closely with State and local governments to move people with disabilities out of institutions and into community-based settings, going above and beyond the requirements of the Supreme Court's landmark Olmstead decision.

In fact, the message of the ADA is being heard all around the world. Over 40 countries, from Australia to Uganda, now have laws prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities -- many of them inspired by the ADA.

Although we have accomplished much because of the ADA, our job is far from done. People with disabilities are far more likely than other Americans to drop out of high school or to suffer from poverty and unemployment. They are far less likely to own a home, to use a computer to explore the Internet, or to vote.

Earlier this year, I proposed the New Freedom Initiative. It is the next step in securing the promise of the ADA. The New Freedom Initiative will help ensure that Americans with disabilities can access the best technologies of today and even better technologies in the future. We will expand educational opportunities and accessible transportation and take steps to fully integrate people with disabilities into the workforce. We will expand housing opportunities and improve access to churches, mosques, synagogues, and civic organizations. And we will fully enforce the ADA while working in partnership with businesses, States, and local governments to promote the highest possible degree of voluntary cooperation.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was an unprecedented step forward in promoting freedom, independence, and dignity for millions of our people. On this, the 11th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I remain committed to tearing down the remaining barriers to equality that face Americans with disabilities today.



July 26, 2001.

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