July 21, 2011

United Spinal Celebrates the Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act: Helping People With Disabilities Access the American Dream

NEW YORK, July 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- United Spinal Association recognizes the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights law that protects wheelchair users and other people with disabilities from discrimination, which celebrates its 21st anniversary on July 26th.

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The ADA levels the playing field for all people with disabilities so they can pursue their rights under the constitution.

The law improves access to many areas that Americans without disabilities often take for granted, such as public transportation, housing, and employment.

United Spinal played a significant role in drafting portions of the ADA and advocated for amendments signed into law in 2008 that expanded the ADA's definition of disability.

According to James Weisman, United Spinal's vice president and general counsel, there's still much work ahead to ensure compliance with the law.

"Over the years, the ADA has empowered tens of millions of people with disabilities to demand equal rights. It has broken down barriers that have prevented wheelchair-users and people with mobility impairments from accessing their communities, but there are many obstacles that still need to be addressed," said Weisman.

"When I was invited to the White House to witness the ADA's signing in 1990, I realized that generations of people with disabilities who had advocated for their rights, were not able to witness this momentous occasion. United Spinal continues this fight," he added.

This year, United Spinal settled a lawsuit with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to improve the accessibility of one of the City's landmark subway stations undergoing renovations. As a result it will now include the installation of a new elevator making it easier for wheelchair users and other people with mobility issues to access the station.

United Spinal also recently filed a class action lawsuit against the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) for violating the law by failing to provide yellow taxis that wheelchair-users can access. The TLC regulates a yellow "hail a cab" system comprised of over 13,000 vehicles. Of that number, only 231 taxis are accessible to those who use wheelchairs or scooters.

In 1996, United Spinal was instrumental in getting New York City (NYC) to create sidewalk curb ramps so that wheelchair users could navigate the City's streets. It also initiated a major advocacy campaign to make every bus and many of the subway stations in the City accessible.

United Spinal promotes the highest accessibility standards in the construction and renovation of public facilities so that they are welcoming to people with disabilities. Its Accessibility Services program has consulted on the accessibility features of arenas, sports venues, museums, and concert halls nationwide, including the New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

About United Spinal Association

United Spinal is a national 501(c) (3) nonprofit membership organization formed in 1946 by paralyzed veterans and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Americans with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, ALS and post-polio. It played a significant role in writing the Americans with Disabilities Act, and made important contributions to the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Membership is free and is open to all individuals with SCI/D. United Spinal was instrumental in getting New York City to create sidewalk curb ramps and accessible public transportation that has been used as a model for many United States cities.

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Paul Tobin

Jim Weisman

SOURCE United Spinal Association