August 2, 2013 OHA Director's messages on the web
To: All OHA employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., Director

23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: We can do even better

"Let the shameful wall of exclusion come tumbling down."
~President George H. W. Bush upon signing the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

This week our country marked the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act was landmark federal civil rights legislation that offers protections for employment, transportation, public accommodations and telecommunications.

This legislation was a long time coming and it didn’t happen without dedicated effort by people with disabilities, their families and friends. And in 1990, even though the bill had bi-partisan support and was endorsed by President George H. W. Bush, the legislation was stalled. To call attention to the issue, on the steps of the Capitol activists staged an action to show how impossible it was for them to access their own government. They crawled up the stairs, slowly, agonizingly. You can see footage of that amazing day here.

This history is important not only because it is largely unknown but also because it reminds us of something important: Our society is designed around people who walk, see, hear and function at about the same level of ability in a variety of ways.

That isn’t true. We know it isn’t true. Some of us cannot walk so we count on wheelchairs, crutches or canes for mobility to help negotiate infrastructure designed for walkers. Some of us cannot see so we count on a variety of tools that allow us to adapt to a world designed for the sighted. Some of us cannot hear, some of us are developmentally disabled, some of us have been injured, some of us were born this way.

The differences in our abilities are vast and represent the full range of human experience. And yet for too many Oregonians, those differences can mean unemployment, substandard medical care, and a lifetime of discrimination and even violence.

The unemployment rate for adults with disabilities is nearly double that of other Americans. Children with disabilities are nearly four times more likely to experience violence than other children.

These disparities and others facing people with disabilities are unacceptable.

The Oregon Health Authority is both an employer and a service provider for people with disabilities. And on this anniversary it is important to renew our commitment to our employees and our clients. We can bring increased sensibility – and sensitivity – to recognizing the unnecessary challenges the able-bodied world creates for everyone else. We must be certain to meaningfully include people with disabilities in our work. We can do better.

OHA on the web