Justice For All
AAPD's Andy Imparato on Progress
"New Freedoms, Old Barriers, and New Threats"
By Andrew J. Imparato, President and CEO
American Association of People with Disabilities
July 4, 2001
As we celebrate the 11th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) this July 26, we have an opportunity to celebrate the progress
that has occurred since 1990 and to recommit ourselves to addressing the
many ongoing barriers to full participation that lie before us as a
cross-disability community. In that spirit, I have compiled a list of
eleven "new freedoms" or signs of progress. By emphasizing these "new
freedoms," I don't intend to downplay the importance of the "old
barriers" (e.g., the institutional bias in the Medicaid program, work
disincentives in disability benefits programs, or persistent attitudinal
barriers perpetuated by mainstream media) and "new threats" (e.g.,
states' rights, genetic discrimination, and the ADA Notification Act).
However, in the spirit of a celebration, I have decided to focus my
column on the positive as we mark 11 years of ADA.
New Freedoms--Signs of Progress from 2000-2001
1. Vote 2000 and Disability Vote Project. Thanks to the leadership of
Jim Dickson, Adina Topfer, and the numerous individuals and
organizations that participated in get out the vote efforts around the
2000 national elections, we are beginning to make our disability voice
heard in the polling place. According to the National Organization on
Disability (NOD), approximately 14 million people with disabilities
voted in November of 2000, or about 40 percent of eligible voters with
disabilities. That represents a 2.7 million-vote increase over the 1996
elections. Jim and Adina will continue to build on this significant
progress from their new positions at the American Association of People
with Disabilities (AAPD), working in coalition as always with folks and
organizations around the country.
2. Cingular Wireless's Dan Keplinger Super Bowl Ad. In January, 2001,
Cingular Wireless ran an ad during the Super Bowl that featured disabled
artist Dan Keplinger talking about the importance of self expression. At
the end of the ad, Dan voiced and the screen captioned the words "I am
so lucky." This positive message coming from an artist with a
significant disability was a marked improvement over the message of the
prior year's Nuveen Investments Super Bowl ad featuring Christopher
Reeve "walking" with the assistance of computer-generated "cured" legs.
The message of Cingular's ad was that it is okay to be disabled.
Nuveen's message was stuck in the medical model, celebrating the
eventual "cure" for spinal cord injuries. Go Cingular! Go Dan!
3. 2000 Paul G. Hearne/AAPD Leadership Awardees. In December, 2000, AAPD
recognized eleven emerging leaders with disabilities from around the
country. To learn about the group, and the 1999 awardees, visit
www.aapd-dc.org and/or www.nationalleaders.com/hearne for more
information. The 2000 awardees, like their predecessors from 1999, are
an impressive testament to the power of the cross-disability leaders who
are beginning to make their voices heard around the U.S. Kudos to
Olegario Cantos VII, Matthew Cavedon, Robert E. Coward, Jr., Tamar
Michai Freeman, Kyle Glozier, James Sato Harrold, Tim Holmes, James R.
Meadours, Sharon Lynn Nguyen, Lauren Teruel, and Sabrina-Marie Wilson!
The deadline for the 2001 Paul G. Hearne/AAPD Leadership Awards
applications is July 26, 2001. To download the application, go to
www.aapd-dc.org or to request a print copy, call 800 840-8844 and speak
with Jessa Steinbeck.
4. Bipartisan Support for Disability Rights in Garrett Amicus Briefs.
When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the University of Alabama's
challenge to the constitutionality of the ADA as applied to state
employers, the disability rights community rallied around the disabled
employees Patricia Garrett and Milton Ash. Former President George H. W.
Bush joined with Senators Bob Dole, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Jim
Jeffords, Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy in filing an historic amicus brief
in support of the ADA's constitutionality. Equally important, a
bipartisan group of 14 state attorneys general, led by the attorney
general of Minnesota, weighed in on the side of the ADA. Although we
lost the case in a 5-4 decision, it is important to recognize that when
ADA was challenged in our highest court, the law's bipartisan champions
were there to defend it in force.
5. March for Justice and ADA Watch. On October 3, 2000, more than
4,000 people with disabilities and disability rights advocates
attended a rally and march to the Supreme Court in Washington,
D.C. to call attention to the challenges to the ADA and the
importance of the Presidential elections for the future of the
Supreme Court. Speakers included civil rights luminaries like
Martin Luther King III, Jesse Jackson, and Dick Gregory. The
"March for Justice" attracted the support of a broad coalition of
disability organizations from AAPD to the National Council on
Independent Living (NCIL) to ADAPT to the National Association of
Protection and Advocacy Systems (NAPAS) to the Consortium for
Citizens with Disabilities and on and on. Many of the same groups
have been working together since January of 2001 as "ADA Watch."
This coalition, which includes new groups like the National
Disabled Students Union (NDSU), is working to protect, defend and
restore the ADA. Kudos everyone who participated in the March for
Justice and kudos to Jim Ward at NAPAS for coordinating ADA Watch!
6. National Disabled Students Union. In response to the Supreme Court's
unjust decision in Garrett v. University of Alabama, disabled students
Sarah Triano from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Daniel Davis
from U.C. Berkeley formed a new organization called the National
Disabled Students Union. Their coalition has attracted participation
from hundreds of students with disabilities around the country, many of
whom participated in a "National Leave Out" on April 17 designed to
raise awareness of the implications of the Garrett decision and the
resurgence of states' rights. Go Sarah! Go Daniel! Go NDSU!
7. Olmstead Executive Order. In June, President George W. Bush signed an
executive order designed to speed up the process of implementing the
Supreme Court's decision in L.C. v. Olmstead requiring States to end
unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities under State
Medicaid programs. The Order contains strong language that calls for
aggressive leadership from the Federal government to protect the rights
of individuals who continue to be stuck in institutions because they
need long-term services and supports and their state has given them no
home and community-based alternative. Kudos to President Bush and kudos
to ADAPT, NCIL, and others who kept the pressure on the President to
deliver on his campaign promise to issue such an order!
8. PGA Tour v. Martin. Seven Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, led by
Justice Stevens (a golfer), issued a decision this term requiring the
PGA Tour to accommodate disabled golfer Casey Martin by allowing him to
ride in a golf cart between shots. This decision is an important victory
for the individualized analysis of what is "reasonable" under the ADA.
Go Casey! Go Justice Stevens!
9. Congressman James Langevin. In November, 2000, Rhode Island residents
elected James Langevin to represent them in Congress. A wheelchair-user,
Congressman Langevin is paving the way for others with disabilities to
join him in the U.S. House of Representatives. I look forward to the day
when the Congressional Disability Caucus has the size and influence of
the Congressional Black Caucus. Go Congressman Langevin! Go Rhode
10. National Council on Disability's Unequal Protection Under Law
Reports. The National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent
federal agency with nine staff and 15 council members appointed by the
President and confirmed by the Senate, has issued a number of hard-
hitting reports under the series entitled "Unequal Protection Under
Law." These historic and courageous reports document years of inadequate
enforcement of federal disability rights laws like ADA, IDEA, and the
Air Carrier Access Act. Visit www.ncd.gov to get a copy of the reports.
Kudos to NCD for speaking truth to power!
11. Kyle Glozier's Speech at the Democratic Convention in 2000. Kyle
Glozier, a 14 year old with cerebral palsy from Pennsylvania who wants
to be President when he is old enough, delivered a powerful speech on
behalf of the disability rights community at the Democratic Convenion in
Los Angeles. His speech was not aired in prime time, and unfortunately
disability rights issues received very little prime time coverage at
either convention. However, Kyle once again demonstrated the power of a
single voice in the fight for justice. Go Kyle!
Andrew J. Imparato
President and CEO
American Association of People with Disabilities
Visit the AAPD website at www.aapd-dc.org
more information on the organization.
Justice For All