July 26th marked the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The ADA states that all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places are open to everyone. July also marks Disability Pride Month, which advocates for and celebrates the lives of people with disabilities and acts as a reminder to uphold the rights established by the ADA.
“The 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is a time to reiterate Pennsylvania’s responsibility to protect the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We know we have more work to do to defend the rights guaranteed by the ADA. We are in the middle of a pandemic that disproportionately affects people with disabilities, and we know that there is still stigma associated with disability. Pennsylvania is better off when we include the talents of all people and when we work to be inclusive and break down barriers to access and meet a person’s needs, we provide them with a foundation to excel in all aspects of life and to enrich our communities. On behalf of my colleagues in the Wolf Administration, I want to affirm our commitment to upholding the ADA and to continue to create opportunities for all Pennsylvanians with disabilities.”
The ADA, which was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush, grants civil rights protections to people with disabilities in employment, government services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and provisions like transportation. It also prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.
DHS and the Wolf Administration as a whole have worked to build upon the advances of the ADA and provide the necessary services for people with disabilities to have an everyday life. DHS’ Office of Developmental Programs provides supports to more than 56,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism. DHS’ Office of Long-Term Living supports more than 420,000 individuals with physical disabilities and older adults who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid who are able to live in their community and still receive supportive services for their long-term care needs.
In June 2018, Governor Wolf signed the Employment First Act, which established Pennsylvania as an Employment First state and requires any group receiving public funding to ensure that employment is the main focus for education, training, or support services for anyone with a disability who is eligible to work. DHS has reviewed existing employment policies and expanded efforts to promote competitive integrated employment as the first consideration and preferred outcome for people with disabilities.
The statewide percentage of people with intellectual disabilities or autism who are competitively employed reached 17 percent in March 2019, up from 12 percent in 2017. DHS is committed to expanding these opportunities and helping more individuals with disabilities find gainful, life-enriching employment.
“We want to ensure that people with disabilities have what they need so they can live longer, live better, and have more independence. Our goal at DHS is to implement programs that empower Pennsylvanians to support themselves and their families.”
For more information on DHS and services for Pennsylvanians with disabilities, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.