On the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Independent Living Executive Director Doug Hovey said that progress has been made since the landmark legislation was passed, “but we have to continue to fight for enforcement.” Hovey was the guest speaker at today’s (August 13) breakfast meeting of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, held at West Hills Country Club in Middletown.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, governmental activities, and also establishes requirements for telecommunications services.
After tracing the history of the disability rights movement to the 1960s in Berkeley, CA, Hovey said that the Berkeley Center for Independent Living was the country’s first Independent Living Center, due in great part to the pioneering efforts of Ed Roberts, a quadriplegic who suffered from polio and is known as the father of the disabilities movement. There are now nearly 500 such centers in the US and 40 in New York State. The local Independent Living Center, with locations in Newburgh, Middletown and Monticello, was founded in 1987 and Hovey has been Executive Director since that time.
Hovey noted that 50 million Americans have disabilities. About two-thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed, a statistic that has not changed in 25 years. The median annual salary for disabled individuals who are employed is $36,000, as compared to more than $51,000 for all Americans.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Hovey, “but we have a long way to go.”