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Disability groups, dignitaries mark ADA anniversary

July 24, 2015
 

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CORNING | Disability groups, dignitaries and the public gathered Friday in Corning to mark the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

Attendees included AIM Independent Living Center, Pathways Inc., the Arc of Steuben, Corning Community College President Katherine Douglas, state Sen. Tom O’Mara, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Corning Deputy Mayor Bill Boland and Alison Hunt, deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Tom Reed.

O’Mara and Palmesano issued a joint proclamation marking the anniversary. Boland issued a proclamation from the city, and Hunt issued a proclamation on behalf of Reed.

Friday’s event was held in Centerway Square, which sits along Corning’s Vital Link Route. In the 1990s, AIM and other disability advocates worked with the city to create an accessible pedestrian pathway that allows people with disabilities to freely move between vital services.  The route, which is supposed to be clear of snow and other obstructions year-round, includes a portion of East First Street – where AIM is located – Pearl Street, all of Market Street, Bridge Street and Centerway from Market to Pulteney Street, and Pulteney Street between Bridge and Centerway.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandated the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services. Then-President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990.

The legislation has improved the lives of countless Americans with disabilities, but many barriers remain – both physical and attitudinal. In particular, hundreds of thousands of buildings around the country remain inaccessible, accessible housing and public transportation do not meet the need, and equal employment is far from a reality.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employment rate for people with a disability (ages 18-64) is 31.2 percent, compared to 72 percent for people without a disability. The poverty rate for New Yorkers with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community is 28.6 percent, more than twice the rate of New Yorkers without disabilities (12.3 percent).

In marking the anniversary, the disability organizations reaffirmed their commitment to fulfilling the intent of the ADA.

Congressman Tom Reed (not in attendance) said: “I’m proud to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act and applaud the efforts of invaluable organizations like AIM Independent Living Center, the Arc of Steuben, Pathways and Corning Community College that continue to work with the disability community. I care about the needs of the disability community and it’s only fair that we afford them every opportunity to excel and live the best quality of life possible.”  

John Zick, AIM Independent Living Center’s director of government and public affairs, said: “This landmark legislation has helped more people with disabilities live successfully in the community. Individuals with disabilities have the same desires – employment, homeownership, social inclusion – as those without disabilities. The ADA has helped make these goals a reality for countless people. But even the ADA hasn’t been able to bring about true equality. That remains somewhere down the road, and AIM and other disability organizations around the country will continue to work until that dream is a reality.”

State Sen. Tom O'Mara, R,C,I-Big Flats, said: "It's truly a milestone to celebrate and commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act. I welcome this opportunity to help honor the occasion and express my personal gratitude to all of the local citizens, leaders and organizations who have so admirably carried out the ADA's goals to improve and strengthen the lives of citizens with disabilities throughout our communities."

Assemblyman Philip A. Palmesano said: "I am pleased to join with the dedicated service providers from AIM in commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. AIM’s strong commitment to advocacy on behalf of helping to promote independence for disabled New Yorker’s is exceptional. Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a watershed moment in our history, and AIM continues to serve our friends and neighbors with kindness, care and dignity that is a credit to the legislation's legacy.”

Dr. Edward J. Lukomski, Pathways Inc. president and CEO, said: “The ADA is key to growing understanding and acceptance of individuals with disabilities. When you get to know someone with a disability, you realize that behind the wheelchairs, communication challenges, and smiles, we’re all really as similar as we are different; we have the same desires; we just have different strengths and abilities.”

Bernie Burns (not in attendance), executive director of the Arc of Steuben, said: “One of the areas that the Americans with Disabilities Act has had the greatest impact is employment and the workforce. The Arc of Steuben through its employment programs has helped make the connection between employer needs and the skills of people who have disabilities. At this moment we provide supports for more than 150 people who are working in their communities. That is an outcome that can be directly attributable to the ADA.”

Corning Mayor Rich Negri (not in attendance) said: “The City of Corning is a proud supporter of the American with Disabilities Act.  We were honored to demonstrate our support by the implementation of the Vital Link Accessibility Project which provided access to the City's core service and commercial areas. This access was provided by removing barriers to selected sidewalks, curbs and ramps along Market Street and Denison Parkway. It is our plan to continue to look for ways to comply with the ADA.”   

Christy Pambianchi (not in attendance), senior vice president, Human Resource, Corning Inc., said: “Corning fosters an inclusive culture that celebrates the diversity of its global employees. We all come from different backgrounds and bring our unique experiences to the workplace. In this respect, we recognize that disability is a difference, not a deficiency.  We know that a person’s ability to perform their job effectively is not determined by their disability. Our HR policies ensure that we adhere to all ADA requirements and other applicable laws. We encourage Corning managers to hire qualified individuals with disabilities as one of the ways in which we further expand our diverse workforce.”

Dr. Katherine P. Douglas, Corning Community College president, said: “Corning Community College is dedicated to updating our facilities to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act. For example, a new link is being constructed connecting our Library and Science Building.  When complete, this link will expand a connection for five of our eight main buildings on the Spencer Hill campus, allowing students and staff to travel protected from inclement weather, and will make travel easier for those with mobility issues.”   

About AIM

AIM Independent Living Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities live successfully in the community. AIM promotes an inclusive community by offering supports and services to people with disabilities, their families and friends, and the businesses that serve them. AIM serves more than 3,000 people annually, primarily in Allegany, Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties. On the web: www.aimcil.com.

About Pathways

Pathways Inc., established in 1976, is a not-for-profit human service agency serving 2,000 individuals and families in the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Rochester, New York regions.

Our mission is to provide children, adults, and families with specialized programs and services in developmental disabilities, mental health, family support, traumatic brain injury, nursing-home alternatives, home care, and child care. We hold ourselves accountable for meeting the expressed needs of those we support and for offering them meaningful opportunities to develop their own capabilities. On the web: www.pathwaysforyou.org.

About the Arc of Steuben

The Arc of Steuben was founded in 1964 by a group of parents advocating for the education of their children who had intellectual or developmental disabilities. The agency has been providing services and programs for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, for more than 50 years. The Arc of Steuben currently provides more than 1,000 individuals in Steuben and surrounding counties with services, including job-readiness training, community employment, residential, transportation and in-home services. For more information, visit the Arc of Steuben’s website at www.arcofsteuben.org.