Celebrating the 31st Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

By Paolo del Vecchio, MSW; SAMHSA Executive Officer

As a person with lived experience of mental illness, addictions, and trauma, I consider July 26 – the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – to be our nation’s second Independence Day. For the millions of us with disabilities, it is a day to celebrate our freedom. Freedom from discrimination and the barriers that block our inclusion in community life. Freedom from unjustified segregation and institutionalization. Freedom to earn and to learn. Freedom to pursue recovery and receive services and supports – including mental health and addiction services – that help us participate fully in American life.

As an employee with SAMHSA for over 26 years, I am proud of our leadership in protecting the rights of people with mental illness and/or addictions including:

Over the past 31 years, America has made significant progress in protecting and enforcing the civil rights of people with disabilities – including those of us with mental illness and/or addictions. Despite this progress, we have much more work to do to realize the full promise of the ADA. Too many of us are still without the freedom that all Americans deserve.

Sitting next to President George H.W. Bush, on July 26, 1990, when he signed the ADA into law, was renowned disability advocate Justin Dart Jr. As we continue our pursuit of justice and freedom, let us remember and heed Dart’s call to action to “Lead On!” Happy 31st Anniversary of the ADA!

President Bush signs the American with Disabilities Act

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