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Looking back at the passage of the Americans with Disability Act

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On its 30th anniversary, West Virginia officials are remembering the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

Willis McCollam, the executive director of Northern WV Center for Independent Living appeared on a recent MetroNews ‘Talkline’ and shared that the ADA is one of the more empowering civil rights acts passed in the country’s history.

“Civil rights for folks with disabilities came much later. It’s one that is often forgotten because disability is not something that you think about or impacts you until it hits you,” he said.

ADA went into effect on July 26, 1990, under President George H.W. Bush and prohibits discrimination based on disability.

According to ADA.gov, the law was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment, the website said.

McCollam said that the ADA is all about empowerment which is what his organization focuses on. He said Northern WV Center for Independent Living helps individuals develop skills to help live independently and builds system advocacy to make sure the rights for those individuals with disabilities are noted.

“Oftentimes in the public conscious, they hear disability and think social security administration and a check,” he said. “That is not necessarily the case. Folks with disabilities can work and they want to participate in their communities.”

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