Earlier this week, our nation recognized the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
President George H.W. Bush signed the landmark bill into law on July 26, 1990. It’s one of the most transformational pieces of legislation of the 20th Century.
It protects Americans with disabilities from discrimination at school and in the workplace. Critically, it requires local, state and federal governments to make accessibility accommodations for a host of public services.
One of the most critical is transportation.
In New York state, advocates are fighting a perpetual battle for true public transportation accessibility that fulfills the promise enshrined in the ADA. In Albany, I’m promoting their cause and fighting for critical resources.
The need is clear. Of the 468 subway stations in New York City, only 105 are handicap accessible. Of the 124 LIRR stops, 108 stations are considered accessible by the MTA. However, only 21 of the stations are in full compliance with the ADA.
This is completely unacceptable. My colleagues and I took action. Recently, the Legislature authorized a new capital plan for the MTA. I supported the inclusion of $5.2 billion in funding to improve accessibility for all transportation networks under the umbrella of the MTA, including the LIRR.
It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the law. It also underscores the importance of state and local governments securing needed aid during the ongoing negotiations in Congress concerning additional federal stimulus funds.
It’s going to be much easier for the state to make good on financial commitments it has made to important causes like transportation accessibility if we can secure federal funding to help us deal with the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 crisis.
When the ADA was signed into law, George H.W. Bush called it a “declaration of equality.” It was.
In a recent feature detailing the legacy of the ADA, the New York Times noted that it “helped solidify the creation of an umbrella identity for an increasingly empowered group of people who proudly claim themselves disabled.” It did.
Social progress, however, can’t make us complacent. We have to deliver the funding we need to ensure we’re living up to the letter of the ADA and not just its spirit. That means a fully-accessible public transit network. I’ll keep fighting for it until we have it.