Posted On: January 31, 2020
As I reflect on 2019, there is much to be proud of and grateful for.
First, our programs thrive. The addition of Access U, tending to the unique needs of college students with disabilities, now allows us to serve all people with disabilities, regardless of where they are on their journey toward employment and self-fulfillment. From DREAM BIG to the Starkloff Career Academy, our programs empower more people each year to fully integrate and reach their highest potential.
Next, through prominent television coverage, social media engagement and successful events like the Workforce, Workplace Disability Summit, we reached an unprecedented number of people during National Disability Employment Awareness Month with our message: “St. Louis works best when everyone works.”
But, while the progress we have made is significant and worthy of celebration, we cannot afford to become complacent. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law 30 years ago, a pivotal moment tirelessly fought for by many, including my late husband Max and myself. The ADA promises equal access to education, employment, housing and healthcare – all facets of life. We’ve come a long way in these areas, but our work is far from done. As nearly 80 percent of the disability community is not in the workforce, the promise of the ADA is not yet fulfilled, and it’s about time that it is.
Achieving the ideals set forth by the ADA is an awesome responsibility, a responsibility we shoulder gladly here at the Starkloff Disability Institute. I am proud to say SDI has emerged as the workforce, workplace disability advisor, and the greater St. Louis community looks to us for leadership in all matters pertaining to disability access and inclusion. But we absolutely cannot do this important work alone.
As we begin 2020 and celebrate 30 years of the ADA, I encourage you all to join us in our mission and recommit yourselves to the cause. It’s about time students with disabilities enjoyed the same educational opportunities as their non-disabled peers. It’s about time people with and without disabilities work alongside one another in competitive, rewarding jobs. It’s about time the principles of universal design become the norm, not the exception. It’s about time that the stigma of disability is erased from the public consciousness. It’s about time that people with disabilities become fully emancipated through economic independence.
We all have something valuable to contribute to society. Let’s all come together in 2020 to fulfill the promise of the ADA, because it’s about time.