Calls on Alaskans to do more to advance the rights of Alaskans with disabilities
ANCHORAGE – This week marks the 30th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act, landmark civil rights legislation that guaranteed the rights of Americans with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination based on a disability, requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and ensuring accessibility options for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations.
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the bill that was crafted and recommended by the National Council on Disability to include both mental and physical disability.
“This landmark civil rights legislation changed the world for Americans with disabilities by ensuring basic human rights in employment, housing, and accommodation,” Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) said. “While we have made leaps and bounds, we still have a lot of work to do to ensure full compliance with the law. For example, accessible entrances and safe travel on city streets are still needed. Anyone trying to maneuver an Anchorage street in a wheelchair still struggles with accessibility every day. This is unacceptable, and we must invest in these improvements for our neighbors.”
According to Robert L. Burgdorf Jr., who drafted the ADA, the law was written in response to “widespread, systemic, inhumane discrimination against people with disabilities” that were described by a New York judge in 1971 as “the most discriminated [against] minority in our nation.”
Alaskans experiencing disabilities often face difficulty in finding employment, housing, and adequate medical care. In medical care, this can result in delay of treatment leading to more serious health conditions and in some cases premature death. The challenges people experiencing disabilities face are only intensified during the pandemic.
“My neighbor, Linda, once told me a story of her struggle,” added Representative Tarr. “She complained she felt like passing out a lot but could never get a doctor to take her seriously. When she finally was able to get attention, she found out she had several tumors on her pancreas and that the cause was a blood sugar problem. This is called “diagnostic overshadowing” and happens when a doctor only pays attention to a person’s disability and overlooks other health issues. This led to decades of poor health for Linda. This sort of avoidable suffering should be a call to action for all of us.”
A video with Linda’s story is available here. In Alaska, the 25-member Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education works to achieve their mission of ”Creating change that improves the lives of Alaskans with disabilities” and uses planning, capacity building, systems change, and advocacy to create change for people with disabilities. You can learn about their work here.
Alaska House Majority