Monday, April 20, 2015

ADA at 25, Chicago style

By Professor Michael Waterstone

Prof. Waterstone is guest blogging on Prawfsblawg, where this post originally appeared.

On Friday, I had the good fortune of attending the kick off event for ADA25Chicago. There are a lot of celebratory events and academic conferences planned this year commemorating the 25th anniversary of the ADA, but this was different. It brought together politicians (including Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth), corporate figures (including the President/COO of Motorola, where the event was held), and civic leaders (including representatives of the Chicago Community Trust), as well as state and local government. These individuals did not just give speeches, but expressly set the stage for actual commitments.

The organizers had already gathered pledges from Chicago civic organizations and employers to establish programs to advance opportunities for people with disabilities, to create programs within six months throughout the region to increase civic engagement around disability issues, and to develop lasting “legacy projects” around the key themes of employment, education, and community living for people with disabilities. ADA25Chicago has already planned a visible presence sponsoring events at Chicago’s many summertime festivals and cultural events (disability awareness, good food, and craft beer? Count me in!). And there are specific plans in place to hold these groups publicly accountable for their commitments.

I posted earlier about the disconnect between how those inside and outside the disability rights community view disability issues. ADA25Chicago is one of the most sophisticated efforts I have ever seen to address that gap. By gathering elites, and creating a plan to mobilize and hold their feet to the fire on accountability, this was a really exciting beginning. I really look forward to watching how this all unfolds.

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