Today, we celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has assisted millions of people with disabilities overcome and eliminate barriers in all areas of society, from schools and the workplace to housing and public transportation. For 23 years, the ADA has been helping to create inclusive communities, where people with disabilities live independent lives and contribute in meaningful ways. It has helped all Americans see what people with disabilities can achieve, given opportunity and access.
Over 50 million Americans have a disability, including 5.5 million veterans. As landmark civil rights legislation, the ADA proclaimed that "the continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous."
The progress made by people with disabilities during the past 23 years was bolstered by the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Because this law, beginning in 2014, it will be illegal for insurance companies to deny health coverage to millions of Americans, including people with disabilities, because of "pre-existing conditions." Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act gives our states additional options and resources to expand home- and community-based services so they can fulfill the promise of the ADA's integration mandate and the Olmstead decision.
I was proud to join the first anniversary celebration of the Administration for Community Living earlier this year. The creation of this office has cemented the importance of creating federal policies and programs that enable people to access the services and supports they need right in their communities, rather than institutional settings. We will continue to expand access to affordable health care and promote opportunities for community living.
We strengthen our nation when we empower individuals with disabilities to participate fully in society, make their own choices, and live healthier and more productive lives.
HHS supports the ratification by the Congress of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Ratification supports our global leadership in disability rights and advancing equal access for Americans with disabilities abroad.
Learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act at http://www.ada.gov.
Read about the Affordable Care Act and the benefits it provides all Americans at www.hhs.gov/healthcare.
Learn about the United Nations' work on behalf of people with disabilities at http://www.un.org/disabilities/index.asp.