Photo by White House photographer Pete Souza
President Obama invited hundreds of advocates from around the nation to the White House on July 20 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Millions of Americans with disabilities have had the chance to develop their talents and make their unique contributions to the world,” said Obama. “And thanks to them, America is stronger and more vibrant. It is a better country because of the ADA.”
Obama noted the ADA hasn’t achieved its full promise. “We all know too many people with disabilities are still unemployed — even though they can work, even though they want to work, even though they have so much to contribute,” he said. “Whatever the reason, we’ve got to do better — our country cannot let all that incredible talent go to waste.”
Robin Stephens, a long-time disability rights organizer who was involved in passage of the ADA attended from Denver, Colo. “I enjoyed the camaraderie with the disability activists and enjoyed seeing the celebrities,” she says. “I liked Obama’s off-the-cuff remarks about Michelle’s dad’s life before the ADA.” The first lady’s father had multiple sclerosis.
“It’s just wonderful walking into what is actually the people’s house and seeing people you know and love,” says Janine Bertram Kemp, an organizer for the ADA Legacy Project. Her late husband, Evan Kemp, was a main force behind the passage of the ADA. “Anytime a group of people who work for disability rights, and especially anybody who’s an activist, is at the White House, that’s a big deal. We’ve accomplished a great deal.”
Watch the White House-produced video of the event: