Recognizing Milestones

Honoring humanity creates an equitable and just society.

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Diverse group of people on picnic in the park
Photo from Healthy Community Living

History matters. Not only does it show where we have been, it explains why things are the way they are. When it comes to building a more equitable and just world for everyone, everyday actions -- the large and the small -- matter. The Washington State Office of Equity honors the contributions of persons with disabilities who, through their actions, made this state and nation a better place to live. We appreciate the everyday actions -- the large and the small – persons with disabilities take to live, love, and thrive in safety and authenticity. 

Since the mid-1900s, people with disabilities have pushed for the recognition of disability as an aspect of identity that influences the experiences of an individual, not as the sole-defining feature of a person. People with disabilities have had to battle against centuries of biased assumptions, harmful stereotypes and irrational fears. The stigmatization of disability resulted in the social and economic marginalization of generations of Americans with disabilities, and like many other oppressed minorities, left people with disabilities in a severe state of impoverishment for centuries.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and ensured the equal treatment and equal access of people with disabilities to employment opportunities and to public accommodations. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, services rendered by state and local governments, places of public accommodation, transportation and telecommunications services. Washington state is committed to the ADA and the disability rights movement continues to make great strides towards the empowerment and self-determination of Americans with disabilities.1

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Photo of Duane French in front of the State Capitol in 2008
Photo of Duane French courtesy of the Office of the Secretary of State and Legacy Washington

Personal Note of Privilege: Duane French, a Hastings and former director of disability service in the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services, who fought tirelessly from his wheelchair was instrumental in securing the passage of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990. Read about Duane French

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Duane called me one day to tell me stories about this journey  and encouraged me to continue the work for justice, even when it seemed impossible. This one is for you Duane. May you continue to rest in peace. Dr. J

Timeline:2

  • 1990 - The Americans with Disabilities Act is signed into law and is considered the most important disability-related civil rights law. This legislation gives more rights to people with disabilities regarding employment, housing, access to public buildings, equal transportation and telecommunication rights.
  • 1996 - The Telecommunications Act required that computers, telephones, closed captioning and many other telecommunication devices and equipment be made accessible.
  • 1999 - The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvements Act expanded the availability of Medicare and Medicaid so that certain disabled beneficiaries who return to work will not lose their medical benefits.
  • 2008 - The ADA Amendment expanded the definition of “disability” and ensured that more people with disabilities could receive healthcare coverage and not be discriminated against2015 The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act ensured access for all individuals, of every skill level, the opportunity to pursue the skills, training and education they need to obtain employment that will lead to financial stability and economic security for themselves and their families.
  • 2015 - The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act ensured access for all individuals, of every skill level, the opportunity to pursue the skills, training and education they need to obtain employment that will lead to financial stability and economic security for themselves and their families.

For more information, click here.

Disability History Month in October

According to RCW 28A.230.158, every October, each public school is expected to provide instruction, awareness and understanding of disability history and people with disabilities. The act was passed a decade ago with the following statement: "The Legislature finds that annually recognizing disability history throughout our entire public educational system, from kindergarten through grade 12 and at our colleges and universities, during the month of October will help to increase awareness and understanding of the contributions that people with disabilities in our state, nation and the world have made to our society. The Legislature further finds that recognizing disability history will increase respect and promote acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities. The Legislature further finds that recognizing disability history will inspire students with disabilities to feel a greater sense of pride, reduce harassment and bullying, and help keep students with disabilities in school."3

Disability Employment Task Force was created as part of Executive Order 13-02, the Disability Employment Task Force is responsible for assisting state agencies with recruitment and retention of persons with disabilities.

A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone. Sundar Pichai
This may feel true for every era, but I believe I am living in a time where disabled people are more visible than ever before. And yet while representation is exciting and important, it is not enough. I want and expect more. We all should expect more. We all deserve more. Alice Wong

1 https://www.adl.org/education/resources/backgrounders/disability-rights-movement

2 https://www.independencefirst.org/IndependenceFirst/media/PDFs/Disability-Legislation-Timeline-Handout-Final.pdf

3 https://www.cwu.edu/accessibility-studies/washington-state-celebrates-disability-history-month-october