Earlier this week, a quarter of a century after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was originally signed into law, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) spoke to hundreds of government and business leaders during the opening session of ADA 25 Chicago’s Disability Inclusion Opportunity Summit.
While celebrating the progress that has been made over the past 25 years, Duckworth also focused her remarks on the continued need for increased accessibility and other improvements to ensure equal opportunities for those living with disabilities in public transit, the workplace and education.
“The ADA is essential in helping wounded warriors like me and millions of other Americans to move forward with our lives,” Duckworth said. “It allows me to be physically active, get my pilot’s license back and serve in Congress — but we still have a lot of work to do. More than a quarter of America’s disabled population still lives in poverty, which is why this summit’s focus on improving education and employment access is so critical.”
ADA 25 Chicago statistics indicate that more than 1 in 10 Illinois residents have a disability and that those individuals are much less likely to be employed than those who are not disabled.
To further the cause for increased access and equality, Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs during her service, recently introduced the Transit Accessibility Innovation Act with U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI). The legislation aims to encourage public-transit authorities to improve access for individuals with disabilities. Duckworth also co-sponsored the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act, a bill that would help people with disabilities transition from lower-wage, less-upwardly-mobile jobs to higher-paying, more-lucrative work.
“What good is a job or a degree without any way to get to a meeting or class? And why would you need a degree if the only jobs that are available are poorly paid, menial tasks?” Duckworth said. “We all deserve the opportunity to learn, make a living, support our families and live our own American Dream. I look forward to working in Congress and with the talented people behind ADA 25 Chicago to protect rights and improve opportunities for people with disabilities and to help make Chicagoland one of the most accessible regions in the nation.”