On July 26, 2015, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. On that date in 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities. This legislation established a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
The ADA has expanded opportunities for Americans with disabilities by reducing barriers and changing perceptions, and increasing full participation in community life. However, the full promise of the ADA will only be reached if we remain committed to continue our efforts to fully implement the ADA.
On the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, congregations of the Eastern PA Conference are encouraged to celebrate and advance the progress that has been made by reaffirming the principles of equality and inclusion for persons with disabilities and recommitting their efforts to foster full ADA compliance toward becoming more accessible, welcoming congregations.
“So much progress has been made in the last 25 years, but there is still much to be done to make our churches fully accessible,” said Bishop Peggy Johnson. “I hope all churches will annually complete Accessibility Audits and then work as much as they can to improve their buildings and attitudes.”
Although religious organizations and the entities they control are exempt from some sections of the law, they, as institutions of faith, have always been governed by the mandates of love and justice. It is under this higher authority that many congregations and other religious entities are creating accessible and welcoming environments for people with disabilities. When barriers of architecture, communication and attitude are removed, justice and love prevails and people with disabilities become full participants in the celebrations and obligations of their faith.
Congregations are asked to download and sign the online ADA25 Faith Community Proclamation. It complements similar pledges for individuals, organizations and government officials found online at http://www.adaanniversary.org, the Website for the ADA25 Anniversary Tool Kit. The goal is a minimum of 2,500 congregations. Please share the proclamation with other churches, and please share the other pledges with individuals, organizations and public officials, as appropriate. Encourage all of them to likewise sign and adopt these commitments to join and support this national effort on behalf of disabled persons.
The proclamation and pledge, along with other materials, were developed by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), in conjunction with the ADA Legacy Project. The IDAC encourages faith communities and organizations to sponsor and join in celebrations and activities related to ADA25. The UMC General Board of Church and Society is an IDAC member agency on behalf of our denomination.
“Every church should sign this pledge and find ways to not only include people with disabilities in their ministries, but also to do the harder justice work of empowerment,” Bishop Johnson, a member of the Church and Society board.
IDAC’s mission is to mobilize the religious community to speak out and take action on disability policy issues with Congress, the President and Administration, and society at large. IDAC is a diverse, nonpartisan coalition of religious and religiously affiliated organizations whose core spiritual values affirm the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. Learn more about IDAC.
“That All May Worship: An Interfaith Welcome to People with Disabilities” is a guide to help transform congregations of all faiths into places where children and adults with disabilities are welcomed, honored, and enjoyed. Over 70,000 printed copies of this guide have been sold since the first edition was published 20 years ago. There is now a free updated electronic edition of this popular guide. Please click here to read the online version of That All May Worship.
If you have questions about the ADA, the ADA National Network has 10 regional ADA Centers located around the U.S., offering comprehensive information resources, guidance and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, in Rockville, Md., serves Pennsylvania and other neighboring NE states. Write to the center at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-217-0124.
PS–APPEAL FOR INFORMATION: If your church has made or will soon make significant accessibility improvements, please let us know. We want to report on congregational efforts to reduce barriers and change perceptions while increasing full participation of disabled persons in church and community life. Please write to us at email@example.com. Thank you!