By Bob Allen
The approaching 25th anniversary of President George H.W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act is an opportunity for churches to celebrate progress and recognize work that remains to make society more open and accessible to people with disabilities, says an American Baptist leader planning an interfaith worship service in the nation’s capital July 26.
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, managing director of resource development for American Baptist Home Mission Societies, said July 16 the July 26, 1990, signing of the ADA expanded opportunities for Americans with disabilities both by reducing barriers and changing perceptions.
Ramsey-Lucas, director of interfaith engagement for the American Association of People with Disabilities, said in this week’s Power Grid blog that the ADA and subsequent amendments signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008 prohibit discrimination based on disability in employment, services rendered by state and local governments, places of public accommodation, transportation and telecommunication services.
Despite significant gains in many areas, Ramsey-Lucas said, two-thirds of Americans with disabilities are still unemployed or underemployed, a number unchanged since the ADA became law.
“Truly, employment remains the unfulfilled promise of the ADA,” Ramsey-Lucas said.
Among anniversary activities to raise awareness of the acts successes and unmet goals, the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, a program of the AAPD, is sponsoring an interfaith worship service at 3 p.m. on July 26 at First Trinity Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C.
Speakers for the event include David Saperstein, longtime director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism named in January by President Obama as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The event also includes presentation of the Thornburgh Family Award, named after U.S. Attorney General, Dick Thornburgh and his wife, Ginny, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities and former director of the AAPD’s interfaith program, to Rabbi Lynne Landsberg.
Landsberg, senior adviser on disability rights for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, is a co-founder of the Jewish Disability Network, a coalition of national Jewish movements and organizations advocating for civil and human rights for people with disabilities.
She also is founder and co-chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis committee on disability awareness and inclusion and co-founder of Hineinu: Jewish Community for People of All Abilities, a collaboration of the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform Jewish movements.
The Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition is also partnering with the ADA Legacy Project, the Collaborative on Faith and Disability, and the ADA National Network to celebrate the progress and promise of the ADA.
Resources include a proclamation for faith communities to commit to full implementation of the ADA, worship and education resources that can be tailored to specific religious traditions and communities of faith, and an ADA25 and Faith Facebook page for sharing ideas, questions, activities and resources.
“The 25th anniversary of the ADA presents a unique opportunity to celebrate progress while also noting the work that remains,” Ramsey-Lucas said in his blog. “Join us in Washington, D.C., on July 26 or make use of worship and education resources in your congregation and community. Together let’s celebrate the progress and commit ourselves anew to the promise of the ADA.”