Tag Archives: federal legislation

Milestones Mark Impact of Major Federal Legislation

An earlier post offered an intro to the plans for commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/category/disability-issues/) There are scores of activities planned for the ADA’s “silver anniversary”, many – certainly not all – are mentioned in that post. One state event that seems particularly inclusive and experiential is the family day set for July 26, sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota State Council on Disabilities. There will be free admission to the Minnesota History Center for all, live music, dancing, film/video and more with ASL interpreters, audio describers, deaf/blind interpreters and open captioning. More at http://www.minnesotahistorycenter.org/accessibility.

Since that post I have come across several thoughtful and informative posts about ADA, including great information in the most recent issue of Access Press, now free and accessible to all. (Note the location of Access Press newsstands and resolve to read it regularly – if the newspaper isn’t handy, find out how to make this essential resource more accessible in your community.) Also since that post I came across a lovely editorial piece on “the beauty of the Americans with Disabilities Act” posted by Susan Henderson, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. It’s a good read and reminder: https://usodep.blogs.govdelivery.com/2015/07/10/the-beauty-of-the-americans-with-disabilities-act/

By interesting coincidence, July also marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, officially signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965. Today there are more than 54 million people enrolled in Medicare. In fact, there is a good deal of overlap between these two major federal programs. For example, in 1973 disability coverage under Medicare was introduced for people under 65 with long-term disabilities. Significantly, both ADA and Medicare represent the culmination of political “movements” – both represent federal action with profound and permanent impact on virtually every individual, family and institution.

As with ADA, recognitions and celebrations of Medicare/Medicaid are popping up everywhere – in health care facilities, senior centers, places of worship and more:

For armchair celebrants there are great online tools.

  • The January 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine carried a thorough and illuminating history of “Medicare at 50 – Origins and Evolution.” http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr1411701. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about the legislation and didn’t even know to ask. The article is worthy of serious study and discussion, particularly in light of ongoing political forces and fomentations.
  • Earlier this month the New York Times Editorial Board published a helpful discussion of Medicare and Medicaid, with up-to-date information re. the relationship with the Affordable Care Act. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/03/opinion/medicare-and-medicaid-at-50.html?_r=0
  • The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation offers a history of the road to Medicare – of particular interest, perhaps, to those who’ve lived that history. http://kff.org/medicaid/report/medicaid-at-50/
  • Kaiser Family Foundation has also updated a video that traces the evolution of the legislation over the past half-century.
  • The Center for Medicare Advocacy has published a powerful resource entitled “Medicare Matters: 50 Insights for Medicare’s 50th Anniversary” http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/50-insights-for-medicares-50th-anniversary/ The informative narrative offers a great review of the powerful impact of Medicare.   Implicit is the parallel impact of recently passed federal legislation.

At the other end of the mobility continuum the Minnesota Nurses Association is sponsoring a Medicare 50th Birthday BBQ Bash on Thursday, July 30, 5-9 p.m. at Highland Park Picnic Shelter, 1227 Montreal Avenue in St. Paul.  It’s free and open to all who want to celebrate the life and legacy of Medicare. Check with MNA at 651 414 2800.

Finally, if you happen to be in DC on Saturday, August 1, fill your water bottle and join the Healthcare Justice March, 10:00-Noon at Potomac Park on the National Mall. The National Nurses United and the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Healthcare are joining forces to commemorate Medicare at 50. More at https://www.facebook.com/events/1571769846-427625,

Too often there is a disconnect between the public and political negotiations inside the Beltway. Both ADA and Medicare/Medicaid are powerful examples of what happens when the body politic and its representatives communicate and create together. Reflecting on the past half century of systemic change reminds us how political and social forces shape the daily lives of everyone. It’s worth the effort to reflect on examples of how the system did, should – and could – work to create institutions that serve the lives of every American.

Update:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/07/24/ada-25-years-after-landmark-civil-rights-law-some-wonder-wheres-equality











Shout out to ADA at 20!

We first endure,  then pity,  then embrace.

Alexander Pope 1688-1744.

Alexander Pope’s words come to mind as we anticipate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Change is an interesting concept to contemplate.  Sometimes the impact is instant and fleeting.  At other times change seeps in, embeds itself, is adapted and adopted, eventually appreciated

How and when did we embrace the idea of disability rights?  How and when did we fashion the infrastructure that supports inclusion — the power of advocacy groups, structural amenities including accessible sports facilities (!), adaptive technologies that facilitate inclusion and that enhance our general awareness of the needs and the contributions of those who are challenged.

It’s worth taking a look at the legislative actions that preceded the 1990 passage of the ADA.  The Disabilities Rights Movement was one of a number of initiatives that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 dealt with race, religion. sex and national origin there is no mention of discrimination against people with disabilities.  Disability rights did not enter the legal canon until 1973 when Section 504 of the Rehabilitation of 1973 became law.  Still, the idea was gathering strength.

Barriers along the march towards equal treatment for people with disabilities would have halted most mortals.  For example, the 1973 legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability towards otherwise qualified people by recipients of federal financial assistance.  The law still did not protect people with disabilities from discrimination by employers, by public accommodations in the private sector, by publicly funded programs and by those providing federal financial assistance.  Again, the idea was catching on.

The 1970’s and beyond saw critical change affecting people with disabilities..  On the one hand, they enjoyed greater access to physical facilities and a chance to prove themselves.  The community at large had a chance to know disabled people as co-workers, neighbors, family and friends.  At the same time, information technology seized the opportunity to enhance intellectual access. The Kurzweil Reader, now relegated to antique status, offered breakthrough intellectual access in the 1970’s.  Meanwhile, the rapidly expanding population of older Americans welcomed every adaptive technology that kept them in the moving in the mainstream.

Given this slow and steady struggle,  the 20th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act calls for a celebration that includes a pause to reflect and renew the promise. This is also a time to publicly acknowledge that, though legislation neither solves all the problems nor addresses all the issues, it rallies the recalcitrant and puts society, including those immediately affect,  on watch.

The 20th anniversary of the law underscores that, though ADA lays down the law, real people take it from there –  people who express their needs, propose solutions,  seek the funding,  create adaptive solutions, capitalize on the latest technology, expand employment options, acknowledge accomplishments, monitor compliance, make change happen in their lives and in their work.

Towns and cities throughout the state and the nation are gearing up with special events, proclamations, and advocacy initiatives.   Minnesotans of all abilities will gather at the state’s hallmark event:

Monday, July 26, 2010

10:00- 2:00 p.m.

Nicollet Island Pavilion


Free and open

Speakers and entertainers include former US Senator Dave Durenberger, comedian Josh Blue, ASL storyteller Nic Zapko, ADA authority Peter Berg, local and national politicians – and more.  There will also be a host of exhibitors and vendors, including purveyors of “summer time food.”  Accommodations include ASL interpreters CART services, PCA assistance and audio descriptors.


For information about the ADA celebration contact the chair of the planning committee: cindyt@mcil-mn.org or 651 603 2015.

ADA has a fact-filled website that explains more than you even want to know about the law, its requirements and implementation.  One staple is a 31-page page booklet, ADA Questions and Answers, offers an overview of the ADA’s requirements for ensuring equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. The primer is available in Spanish, Cambodian, Chinese, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Tagalog and Vietnamese editions available from the ADA Information Line.