This week marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. In 1990 the ADA confirmed our nation’s commitment to ending discrimination against people with disabilities and ensuring equal access to employment, education, transportation and other public accommodations for all Americans. Since its passage, disability advocates have made great strides for an inclusive future for Americans with disabilities.
Today, under the blanket of the ADA, individuals with autism have equal access to the benefits of our society socially and economically. Employers may no longer discriminate based on an individual’s disability. From public transportation to institutions of higher education, equal access is a requirement and civil right for all Americans.
In Olmstead v. L.C., the 1999 landmark Supreme Court case, the spirit of the ADA in affirming the rights of Americans with disabilities to live independently was upheld. Since the Olmstead decision, many states have joined in the transition away from segregated living facilities to integrated community living settings.
As we celebrate the achievements of the disability rights movement, we must look forward to equal access to housing.
As individuals with autism enter adulthood, access to range of living options and support services must be made available Autism Speaks’ National Housing and Residential Supports Survey highlighted the overwhelming need for housing options and residential supports for the growing population of individuals with autism entering adulthood and last year Autism Speaks launched its Housing and Community Living Initiative to address these unmet housing and support services needs.
Under this initiative, autism advocates have already successfully secured funding for housing options and removed thousands of individuals off the waitlist for services in New Jersey and Florida and continue to advocate in other states.
Unfortunately, individuals with autism face a service cliff when the protections offered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)end and they transition to adult life. A transition to independent, adult life in the community is often impeded for many adults with autism due to a lack of housing options and limited availability of support services.
Despite the progress the nation has made, there is an overwhelming demand for integrated housing and community supports for Americans with disabilities; thousands of individuals are waiting to receive the services they need to reach their full potential.
No one with disabilities should be forced to wait for the critical services they need to live fulfilling lives in the community. The 25th Anniversary of the ADA is an opportunity to reflect on how far the disabilities community has come and to prepare us for the journey ahead. We cannot rest until all individuals with autism have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Be sure to follow our celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act on Twitter by following @AutismSpeaks and @AutismVotes.
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