29 Years of ADA and Americans with Disabilities Act
By Peri Nearon
Ideas are powerful things.
They open the world. They eliminate discrimination. They ensure people are defined by potential. They change lives.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an idea that became reality, which is why it’s important each year to pause to recognize the importance of this landmark law and what it means to so many of our fellow New Jerseyans and people across our nation.
uly 26 will mark the 29th anniversary of the ADA. That’s 29 years of changing lives and perceptions, of equal access and of making clear that we as a society will always stand for the rights of our family members, friends, neighbors, and countless people we’ve never met to live fulfilling lives, no matter their personal situation.
The ADA allows individuals with disabilities to participate in the world around them, and has likely changed lives in ways many could not have imagined when it became law in 1990, but while we pause each July to remember the benefits of the ADA and its importance, we also must honor its ideals each and every day of the year.
The ADA provides clear and comprehensive national standards to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities. As a result, individuals with disabilities, as is their right, can live in their home and have equal access to education, jobs, recreation, shopping and entertainment. It has helped shape our nation, but the work is not done. We must remain steadfast to the principles, aiming for greater inclusivity, equality and fairness.
I have the honor of being the director of New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Disability Services, which works to streamline access to services and information to promote and enhance independent living for individuals with all disabilities.
Our goal is to promote maximum independence and full participation of people with disabilities within all aspects of community life.
Through our toll free hotline, 1-888-285-3036, the division responds to requests for assistance. Certified Information and referral specialists are available to confidentially discuss issues, provide information, assist with problem solving and refer individuals to appropriate agencies or services.
We also publish New Jersey Resources, a comprehensive guide to services available throughout the state. I urge everyone to download a copy.
We also administer some great programs such as the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund, and the Personal Assistance Services Program, both of which offer vital assistance to help individuals with disabilities live as independently as possible within our communities. Additionally, we can help people to access NJ ABLE, which allows individuals with disabilities to save for expenses without losing eligibility for their Medicaid and other benefits. And we work with our partners at Human Services, including the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Division of Developmental Disabilities, which serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The ADA rightfully opened the world to individuals with disabilities. We must ensure that equal access remains a priority, while doing whatever we can to assist individuals with disabilities to live full and independent lives. We are here to help. Give us a call or visit us at nj.gov/humanservices/dds/services/ to learn more. Together, we can continue ensuring people are defined by their potential. We can change lives.
Peri Nearon is the director of the New Jersey Division of Disability Services with the Department of Human Services.