IOWA CITY – America has seen an “amazing transformation” in treatment and opportunities for people with disabilities in the two decades since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, Sen. Tom Harkin says, but challenges remain.
Harkin, the author and chief sponsor in the Senate of the ADA, will be the keynote speaker at a celebration of the 20th anniversary of what he called the “emancipation proclamation for people with disabilities” from 1 to 4 p.m. July 24 on the Iowa City Ped Mall. Harkin is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m.
The event will feature live music, vendors, information about the ADA and speakers including Gov. Chet Culver and University of Iowa Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President Georgina Dodge.
In case of rain, the event will be in the Iowa Memorial Union Grand Ballroom, 125 N. Madison St.
“Before the ADA, life was very different for folks in Iowa and across the country,” Harkin said. “Discrimination was both commonplace and accepted.”
After 20 years with ADA, “we recognize that people with disabilities — like all people — have unique abilities, talents and aptitudes,” he said, “and America is better, fairer and richer when we make full use of those gifts.”
However, Harkin sees the need to do more to help people with disabilities live outside of institutions and to help them gain employment.
Measures in health care reform legislation should provide money to states to get people out of institutions so they can live in the community, Harkin said.
With that assistance, more people with disabilities could be employed, he continued. Now, more than 60 percent of them are unemployed.
“Many can, want to and should be working, but if they don’t have personal assistance they can’t get to work,” he said.