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Celebration in Honor of a Milestone Anniversary for the Americans with Disabilities Act

August 27, 2015

Saturday, July 25, marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the strongest civil rights law for disabled people in the U.S. Retired Senator, Tom Harkin, the primary author of the ADA, partook in the celebration as did many leaders of advocacy groups and Joseph Stramondo, PhD, assistant teaching professor in the Health Administration Department.

“It was a really joyful day -- a lot of activists gathered here, in Philadelphia, who were around when the ADA was first passed. It was a great opportunity for people to learn what else is going on in the city as far as disability activism goes, whether calling for more protections or advocating for Philadelphia-specific measures, like accessible taxies,” said Stramondo.

Stramondo, who identifies as a disabled person himself, has a personal interest in the law that has made a huge impact on his life. “The law was important to my personal life, but also to society and to Drexel,” he said. We are a major institution within Philadelphia that is certainly aware of the ADA, and in my experience, Drexel does a really good job of accommodating disabilities. I felt it was worthwhile to be there as a representative of the University and also as a person who has directly benefited from the law’s passing.”

According to Stramondo, the ADA was a major step in regarding disability as a civil rights issue, rather than merely as a medical problem. “It was a paradigm shift in how society in general regarded disability. It opened up a lot of opportunities for disabled people that they otherwise wouldn’t have had in terms of protections against overt discrimination, but also offered remedy for institutionalized discrimination. Usually how the social environment is constructed in exclusionary ways.”

Post-ADA’s passing, improvements such as kneeling buses with ramps to increase access to public transportation, public buildings with accessible space and reasonable accommodations in employment settings for people with invisible disabilities became mainstays. 

Though the celebration highlighted the significant progress for Americans with disabilities, there is more to be done.  “One thing the ADA has not done but needs to happen for disabled people to reach their full potential, or for a broader range of disabled people to reach their full potential, would be to address Institutional Bias.” Institutional Bias means that any state that receives federal dollars for Medicaid must provide nursing home services, but community based services are optional. According to Stramondo, that is the next big step for the ADA, and something society as a whole needs to look at more closely.