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As the Americans with Disabilities Act Turns 30, Gaps in Employment and Education Remain

Two separate photos of people with disabilities and allies from RespectAbility's 2019 Capitol Hill Summit. RespectAbility logo. Text: Celebrating #ADA30: From Washington to Hollywood and Beyond July 27-July 31, 2020 Online Via ZoomWashington, D.C., July 16, 2020 – On July 26, America will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the most comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation ever passed for people with disabilities.

In celebration, the national disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility is hosting #ADA30 Summit 2020, with daily virtual events from Monday, July 27 through Friday, July 31. The #ADA30 Summit 2020 is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, the Murray/Reese Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company.

According to the U.S. Census, more than 55 million people – 1 in 5 Americans – had at least one disability prior to COVID-19. This includes people with physical, sensory, learning, cognitive and other barriers to everyday living. COVID-19 is rapidly expanding this number, especially those experiencing mental health challenges.

The summit opens with several co-authors of the ADA, including former U.S. Congressman (R-TX) and RespectAbility Chair Steve Bartlett, Hon. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Hon. Tony Coelho (D-CA), and activist and former presidential appointee Hon. Lex Frieden. Amna Nawaz, PBS NewsHour senior correspondent and primary substitute anchor, will moderate this Zoomside chat.

Employment is one of the most significant challenges still faced by people with disabilities. A major study showed that 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities are striving for work. However, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall national employment rate for people with disabilities was only 37.6 percent. This shows some progress over three decades, as in 1990, the unemployment rate was 28.7 percent. According to Census Bureau data, out of the more than 20 million working-age (18-64) people with disabilities, only 7.6 million had jobs pre-COVID-19, which has led to an additional one million people with disabilities being unemployed.

“Three decades later, the work to remove barriers continues,” said Bartlett. “The ADA is meant to ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence. We must fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can achieve their dreams, just like anyone else. We’ve come so far, yet we still have far to go.”

In America’s public schools, more than 6.3 million students have disabilities and students of color with disabilities now represent a majority of those students. Nationwide, among the class of 2018, only 66 percent of African-American students with disabilities, 77 percent of white students with disabilities, 71 percent of Hispanic students with disabilities and 79 percent of Asian-American students with disabilities completed high school. This compares to 85 percent of all students without disabilities.

Specific days will be devoted to employment, education, leadership and civic engagement. One day will focus on representation in Hollywood.

#ADA30 Summit: Monday, July 27 – Friday, July 31
1:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. PT
All events are free and fully accessible with ASL interpreters and live captions.

Monday: Education & Skills for a Better Future
Tuesday: Ensuring Inclusive Communities
Wednesday: Fighting Stigmas with Hollywood
Thursday: The Future of Work for People with Disabilities
Friday: Leadership: Making a Difference for the Future

Interviews available with RespectAbility Chairman Steve Bartlett and other speakers. View the full schedule and speakers list and register here: https://www.respectability.org/ada30.

About RespectAbility: RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the President of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. She regularly works with disability organizations, national, state and local policy leaders, workforce development professionals, media, employers, philanthropists, celebrities and faith-based organizations in order to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. To reach her, email JenniferM@RespectAbility.org.

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