Today marks the 20th anniversary of the signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there is both cause for celebration and sober reflection. On the positive side, Chicago disability rights activist Mike Ervin writes:
I live in Chicago, and on the day the ADA was signed, there was not one
accessible public transit bus on the streets here. Today, every bus in
Chicago is accessible.
Ervin goes on to cite the 1999 Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W., that states violate the rights of the
disabled by not offering community-support alternatives to
institutionalization. Activists have used this precedent to pressure
state governments to create more community-based support services, he said.
But people with disabilities still have far to go to reach the full equality envisioned by the advocates who worked so hard for the landmark legislation.
As the chart below indicates, in 2008, nearly 75 percent of people with disabilities in Illinois earned zero dollars, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of census data. That figure was more than double the 28 percent of nondisabled people who earned no money.
In all, people with disabilities in Illinois earned an average of under $8,000 per year in 2008, less than one third the $30,600 people without disabilities earned. African Americans with disabilities earned an average of $6,500, a figure that was the lowest among Asians, black people, Latinos and white people with disabilities.