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ADA marks 20th anniversary

July 26, 2010 2:07:35 PM PDT
Monday is the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is a law that brought significant changes in the areas of employment, transportation, architect, education, public places and telecommunications for more than 54 million Americans.

The City of Chicago has made a strong commitment to implementing the ADA, even though a lot of improvements have been made, there's still much more work that has to be done.

Looking around the city, you will notice some of the improvements that have been made over the last 20 years. From renovations of the El stations to creating some of the most accessible parks in the world.

"I think we have a responsibility to all of our citizens to make it the most accessible," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. "We know we have a long way to go, but we want to do that because that is the right thing to do. "

Mayor Daley said he takes his commitment to the ADA seriously.

"We done great things but I'm never satisfied with the status quo. I just want to get better and better dealing with the policies of this city from building accessibility to any public private buildings," Daley said.

Daley also said he feels people with disabilities have been excluded too long.

"Years ago when people built things, unfortunately, they always left out people with disabilities," he said. "They never thought about that, so anytime we do something, that's the agenda. We don't think about it, you know, later. We think about it at the beginning, and that's the mentality that we have to have with this thing. This has to be all inclusive"

Jahmir Larry has been blind for 20 years. He works at the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired. He says the city of Chicago has been very responsive to people with disabilities.

"If you want to ride the CTA or the L, it's accessible for wheelchairs, the buses are very accessible for wheelchairs," he said. "You get around on the bus, and you know the loud speaker is able to tell you what street you're on."

"I think the city has really changed in the last 20 years, and I have to say that the mayor's commitment to accessibility has been, I think, unmatched," said Linda Mastandrea, attorney and Paralympic medalist. "I think our public festivals are more accessible, so I think our public spaces are more accessible, so I think overall the city is just a much more welcoming place that people with disabilities want to come here."

Daley's commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, Karen Tamley, said she appreciates what has been done.

"We have more and more of our curbs cut around the city accessible," she said. "In fact in the last few years, we've done 27,000 new curb cuts that are fully compliant an accessible."

Last month, Access Living honored Mayor Daley with their Lead On Award for his accomplishments.

"He has given voice to people with disabilities throughout government," said Marca Bistro, CEO and president of Access Living. "He has worked with us to remove barriers. Sometimes our community has needed to use the legal tools to get attention, but I think many more times they have been there as a partner to try to work toward improving things."

The area that the mayor is the most disappointed with is employment.

"I think that is one of the struggles. I think all of us have to come together with and figure that out," Daley said. "So they want to feel, 'Yeah I want to be independent living, but I don't want to sit at home. I want to be able to get a job, get to and from work, get a job and socialized.' But with this economy it's really hard to get the private sector to rethink about this, and that's one thing that we're working on now."


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