Disabled Peoples’ International Award
to President George Bush
Lucy Wong-Hernandez: Mr. President, as you know, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a landmark declaration of equality for this country. It has been said that the ADA is the world’s first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities in any nation. The ADA has proclaimed to the world that people with disabilities have civil and human rights, and segregation is no longer acceptable. Therefore, people with disabilities must be accorded the same personal respect and the same social and economic opportunities as the rest of society. Once again, the United States has set the standards of equality, responsibility, and productivity for the world to follow. The passage of the ADA has made the United States the international leader on disability and human rights issues.
As you predicted the day that you signed the ADA into law in 1990, disability rights leaders in many countries and social policy makers have taken the American example to their hearts and made it their priority for improving the quality of life of their disabled community members. Many countries have drafted their own version of the ADA according to their social and governmental systems and the needs of their disabled. Similar legislation is being implemented to protect the rights and encourage equal participation in society activities of their disabled citizens. These new legislations, in most cases, cover the same areas of concern that are covered under the ADA: to eradicate discrimination based on disability. Countries such as Russia, which last November 31 signed the first civil rights legislation to protect and integrate the disabled in the mainstream of their community, is making great progress in this area. Disabled People’s International, in partnership with Canada, has been collaborating with our partners in Russia to establish community-training centers, including the first Independent Living Center in the city of Volgagrad.
The United Kingdom has recently enacted similar legislation that will promote equal participation in society by individuals with disabilities. The Scandinavian countries have enhanced their social protection legislation for the disabled and enacted new measures, placing more emphasis on the education and employment opportunities of the disabled. Costa Rica, since last year, has enacted their own legislation to protect the rights to education and employment, and protection against any type of abuse, against the disabled. Most recently, Costa Rica has been actively involved in the preparation for the ratification of the convention presented to the Organization of American States to promote and protect the human rights of all disabled persons in the OAS member states.
Mr. President, from China to Brazil, from Denmark to India, and including Australia and the South Pacific Islands, people with disabilities have the same com