TOPEKA –As the nation celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the occasion holds special meaning for Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, who recalled for an audience today in Topeka, how as a child diagnosed with polio, with limited ability to walk, she was forced to attend school separately from her peers.
“We have come such a long way,” Secretary Gilmore said. “It’s made a difference in the lives of people. My life has been different as we’ve gained access, and we’ve been able to go into areas that have not been open to the disabled in the past.”
Several DCF staff members spoke at the ADA celebration event, held at 1 p.m., on the second floor Statehouse rotunda. DCF’s Rehabilitation Services Director Michael Donnelly also addressed the crowd.
“As I step back to assess the progress achieved in 25 years after the enactment of the ADA, I’m both excited and keenly aware of the work still to be done,” Donnelly said. “I’m excited to see the tremendous changes that have come about in our communities.”
Among those changes afforded by the ADA, accessible sidewalks and buildings, allowing countless people with disabilities the opportunities available to others.
Donnelly pointed out that employment opportunities and the rate employment of people with disabilities has not been fully realized.
Governor Sam Brownback continues to push for greater opportunities for people with disabilities. In February 2015, the Governor issued Executive Order 15-02, reaffirming the State’s commitment to hiring people with disabilities. The Order directed that State agencies have employment practices which include outreach recruitment and hiring of military veterans and “individuals with physical, cognitive and mental disabilities.”
Kansas’ ADA Coordinator, Anthony Fadale also spoke at today’s event. He addressed the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
“In Kansas, we expect those with disabilities to be able to achieve their dreams, to attain employment, to be involved in their communities and to raise and provide for their families,” Fadale said.
DCF’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services helped 1,440 Kansans join the workforce in fiscal year 2014.
DCF Rehabilitation Services Director Mike Donnelly at today’s 25th anniversary of the ADA celebration