Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency Explores ADA’s Past, Present and Future
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) at its headquarters Thursday with a series of speakers and panels exploring the past, present and future of the landmark law and the fight against disability discrimination.
“The EEOC is proud of its enforcement efforts under the ADA for the past twenty years, moving forward to fulfill the nation’s promise to give all Americans opportunity, dignity and respect in the workplace,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “The ADA did not erase all of our challenges, but we have learned over the years, as we also celebrate the 45th anniversary of the EEOC’s founding this month, that the American workplace has changed for the better.”
Organized by EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, who was herself instrumental in the development and passage of the ADA and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) prior to coming to the EEOC, the event drew over a hundred people and was webcast on the EEOC’s website.
“Work is key to the soul. It’s not just about paying the bills. It’s about feeling important, about feeling useful. Everyone should be able to work, if they can. But to achieve that for people with disabilities - we really need to change how people think about who they want to hire,” Feldblum said.
Under the theme of “Celebrating the ADA: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” ten speakers, including EEOC officials and authorities on disability law and practice, along with the complainant in an EEOC disability rights case, explored the “nuts and bolts of EEOC work” as well as the ADAAA which significantly expanded the ADA’s scope.
“Our country is stronger and more fair today because the ADA opened the doors of opportunity to millions of people with disabilities who had been effectively locked out of the American dream to which we all aspire,” said Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights who spoke at the event.
“Thanks to the ADA, all Americans have benefitted from the talents and contributions of people with disabilities,” said Andrew J. Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, who also spoke. “However, much work remains to be done. Too many people with disabilities are eager to work but still excluded from our workforce. Our workplaces need these individuals in order to flourish.”
The agency also presented awards to current and former EEOC Commissioners and staff who played key roles in the passage of the ADA, promulgation of regulations and guidance under the ADA, and enforcement of the ADA. The awardees included:
More information about the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the ADA, including the webcast of the event, is available on the EEOC’s website at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/45th/ada20/index.cfm
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.