CHICAGO – In honor of the 18th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed July 15, 2008 American with Disabilities Act Day and the state sponsored a special event celebrating Illinois’ commitment to ADA. The state's celebration entitled, “ADA Live the Dream” highlighted the talents and accomplishments of persons with disabilities through an art exhibition hosted by the Little City Foundation, entertainment, hands-on art activities, wearable art fashion show, exhibits, workshops, and a three-on-three wheelchair basketball exhibition hosted in tandem with the Northeast DuPage Special Recreation Association. The annual event, hosted by Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), and Rocco Claps, Director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), was held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 West Randolph St. in Chicago.
“Eighteen years ago Congress and the President took a stand against discrimination on the basis of disability. Today we recognize the American with Disabilities Act as we highlight the accomplishments of those living with disabilities in Illinois,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We will continue to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities through awareness, and we continue to work hard to eliminate any discriminatory practices.”
For the last 18 years, state agencies and councils have joined together to sponsor a statewide event commemorating the passage of the ADA. The celebration not only recognizes the accomplishments of people with disabilities, it shows how state agencies, programs and other organizations have worked to implement the law.
The “ADA Live the Dream” celebration encourages the state and persons with disabilities to work together in the same spirit that accompanied the original enactment of this law, to achieve a greater understanding of the many contributions of persons with disabilities in Illinois. Honoring the 18th anniversary of this important federal act demonstrates the significance of advancing and protecting the civil rights of all of Illinois’ residents and facilitates a broader awareness of how all of society benefits from greater inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Illinois is one of only 13 states to receive the federal “Money Follows the Person” (MFP) initiative which gives the elderly and persons with disabilities more control and freedom over how and where they receive the Medicaid services they need to live independently in their communities. While the Department of Healthcare and Family Services is the lead agency on this program, the IDHS Division of Rehabilitation Services is working with the Center for Independent Living (CIL) to be trained on the program in an effort to reduce reliance on institutional care while developing community-based long-term care opportunities.
Under the Blagojevich administration, the IDHS Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) has helped more than 30,000 people with disabilities find employment through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. In Fiscal Year 2008 the DRS vocational rehabilitation program helped nearly 5,000 people with disabilities become employed statewide.
“Illinois remains committed to ensuring equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in important aspects of their lives such as employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation,” said Secretary Adams. “The Americans with Disabilities Act has been successful in challenging society’s perceptions of persons with disabilities by providing a greater understanding about their right to live independently within their communities. This celebration focuses on abilities rather than disabilities.”
“Fifty-four million people – or nearly 20% of the American population -- have disabilities, with many of them living at or below poverty levels. Due to a profound disconnect that still exists between people with disabilities and society as a whole, many individuals with disabilities remain disadvantaged and often face discrimination in employment and housing. Making sure that people with disabilities know their rights to fair and equal treatment is key to our overall success as a society,” said Director Claps.
This year’s celebration featured workshops focusing on creating low-cost assistive technology devices; emergency evacuation issues; new legislative proposals such as the federal ADA Restoration Act and state Sign Language Interpreter Licensure law; and an “ADA Update: 18 Years Later” provided by federal agency representatives. An ADA help table provided important information and resources, which were available in alternative formats such as Braille and large print, from organizations that provide services for people with disabilities.
Little City Foundation of Chicago co-sponsored an art exhibit featuring visual and literary artworks created by professional and non-professional artists with disabilities. The art exhibit included both independent artists, as well as artists participating through organizations which serve people with disabilities, as well as a wearable art fashion show. The exhibit will remain in the lobby of the James R. Thompson Center through the morning of Friday, July 18, 2008.
Text of proclamation follows:
WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) passed by Congress in 1990, established a “clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability,” with disability defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities” of an individual: and
WHEREAS, the passage of the ADA represents a major step toward protecting civil rights and improving the quality of life for persons with disabilities, persons who were often subject to discrimination and lacked federal protection; and
WHEREAS, the year 2008 marks the 18th anniversary of the ADA’s civil rights guarantee for individuals with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, Illinois has a long history of protecting the rights of disabled persons, going back 27 years to the passage of the Illinois Human Rights Act (December 6, 1979), which made discrimination against any person with a “physical or mental disability” illegal; and
WHEREAS, an estimated 2 million citizens of Illinois, or 13 percent of the state’s population, according to the Census Survey conducted in 2005, were classified as having a disability; and
WHEREAS, the State of Illinois and its agencies are committed to continuing efforts to ensure that people with disabilities are able to fully participate in employment, transportation, education, communication, and community opportunities;
WHEREAS, Illinois is one of 13 states receiving the federal “Money Follows the Person” initiative which gives the elderly and persons with disabilities more control and freedom over Medicaid services they need to live independently in their communities; and
WHEREAS, during the month of July 2008, the Illinois Department of Human Services, in cooperation with numerous other state agencies, councils, and consumers, will celebrate the anniversary of the ADA with special events in Springfield and Chicago;
THEREFORE, I, Rod Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim July 15, 2008 as AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT DAY in Illinois, and encourage all citizens to recognize the historical significance of the ADA, and in turn, do their part to ensure that people with disabilities are included in the mainstream of community life.