By: Alex Gangitano
Source: The Hill
Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
President Biden on, Monday celebrated the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a sweeping civil rights law, and announced a new program to help Americans experiencing long-term COVID-19 symptoms and conditions.
“For our nation, the ADA is more than a law as well, it’s a testament to our character as a people, our character as Americans,” Biden said in the Rose Garden.
Biden, as a senator, was a co-sponsor of the legislation, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in various settings, including places of employment, schools, community living and transportation.
“31 years ago after its passage, many Americans have never lived in a world without the ADA,” Biden said.
“We passed the ADA and made a commitment to building a nation for all of us, all of us,” Biden added. “Perhaps most importantly, we did it together. This was a Democratic bill signed by a Republican president.”
Then-President George H.W. Bush signed the federal civil rights act into law in 1990. Biden said he had just gotten off the phone with former Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and spoke to former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), days prior. Both former senators spearheaded the legislation at the time.
“Today, too many Americans still face barriers,” Biden said, noting that on his first day in office he signed an executive order to establish a government-wide commitment to advancing equity, including for those with disabilities.
He announced on Monday a new effort for Americans with long-term COVID-19 impacts, so symptoms of “long COVID-19” could qualify as a disability under the ADA.
he guidance does not automatically qualify long COVID-19 as a disability but people experiencing long-term symptoms or conditions can get an “individualized assessment” to determine the condition “substantially limits a major life activity.”
The Department of Health and Human Services also released a guide on Monday about services provided by community-based organizations to help individuals experiencing long-term symptoms after contracting COVID-19.
“We made important progress but we will have work to do,” Biden said, calling for Congress to eliminate the “discriminatory” sub-minimum wage provision.
Biden then signed a proclamation recognizing the 31st anniversary of the bill being signed into law. He called those dealing with disabilities an “inspiration.”
Vice President Harris, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), former Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) were on the stage with Biden during the proclamation signing.
“Pat, you were there at the time. Get your rear end up here,” Biden said to Leahy before the signing.
Biden was also joined by Maryland artist Tyree Brown, who introduced the president before his remarks.
Harris spoke earlier at the event and called the ADA a very important beginning, but said there is more work to be done.
“The ADA gives all Americans the opportunity to determine their own future. Self-determination, which I believe the government must facilitate, that is the impact of the ADA and after all, the promise of America,” she said.
“The president and I will continue to fight with you to make America more accessible to all people,” she added.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff was also in attendance, as well as Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.).
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