The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) has a long history of fighting to advance and defend the health rights of people with disabilities. This legacy includes our advocacy for robust enforcement of federal laws designed to prohibit discrimination, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Since the ADA’s passage thirty years ago today, NHeLP has used the ADA to fight for greater access to community-based and non-discriminatory health care coverage and services for individuals with disabilities. Protecting Medicaid is central to our disability rights work because it provides vital coverage for the majority of home- and community-based services and supports that keep many people with disabilities in their homes.
The ADA plays a vital role in liberating people with disabilities from oppressive systems and environments.
Days ago, staff with disabilities shared personal reflections with the rest of the NHeLP staff on how the ADA continues to shape our experiences with disability. Each of our reflections recognized that while much has been accomplished since the ADA became law, much more work is needed to foster a truly inclusive and equitable country for people with disabilities. The rampant health care discrimination that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color with disabilities encounter at the intersection of overlapping systems of oppression drive this point home loud and clear. Likewise, the health inequities that people with disabilities are experiencing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including higher rates of exposure and death among people living in congregate care facilities, illustrate how inequities can quickly deepen absent robust ADA enforcement.
When discrimination keeps us from realizing our full potential, our families, communities, and country suffer too. The ADA plays a vital role in liberating people with disabilities from oppressive systems and environments. We are committed to protecting, enforcing, and building on its protections to ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunities to make their own decisions and live independent, self-affirming lives in health.