For those of you who don’t know, today marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA has made an incredible difference in so many people’s lives (including my own) as they work to break down barriers and improve the lives of those in the disability community. A few weeks ago, I was asked to participate in celebrating this anniversary with Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin. It has been both an honor and a pleasure to be included in such a momentous day, and I thank those who have chosen me as part of the next generation of advocates for equality and inclusion. Below is my speech that was said at today’s event.
I often say I have SMA, but SMA doesn’t have me. Although this disease affects me physically, it does not prevent me from leading a productive life. I am a college graduate, I started my own nonprofit organization to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for SMA, I am filming and producing a documentary about my life, and I live an active social lifestyle.
Twenty five years ago today, our nation and the way in which we viewed disabilities changed forever. We would no longer have to be confined to the four walls in our homes due to inaccessibility. We would no longer have to experience the inequality and discriminations that prevented us from being active members in the workforce. We would finally begin to break down the barriers and stigmas that exist for people with disabilities. We would finally be recognized as an integral part of society.
The passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a historically remarkable moment in time for it was the first bill that acknowledged the freedom and equal rights that we as disabled Americans deserve. As we all gather here to celebrate the 25th anniversary and look back on the incredible strides that have been made, we must recognize we still have much more to accomplish. And, it is by working together that we can continue to make a difference.
I would like to thank those who pioneered and passed this act so that I, and individuals like myself, could have the opportunity to create the life in which we deserve and have our voices be heard. I would also like to thank each and every person who has worked tirelessly and effortlessly to continue to shape the way disabilities are perceived and accepted. Thank you to those who have given me this opportunity to publicly acknowledge the ADA and the impact it has created in my life. Here’s to the next 25 years of change and equality.