LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – If you attended an event at Lake George Jr./Sr. High School on Tuesday, you might hear a common theme. “Lots of progress made, but more still to go” was the chorus between several voices at the “Day of Independence” celebration held on the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Tuesday’s gathering included a panel of speakers who represented the Lake George Rotary, Southern Adirondack Independent Living, and Warren, Washington and Albany ARC. The conversation revolved around what it means to be a disabled person in the North Country, and what challenges one faces, even 32 years after the ADA was passed.
“As a person with a disability, the ADA is incredibly important to me, in terms of its importance as a civil rights legislation,” said Denise DiNoto, District Governor of Capital Region Rotary District #7190. “We celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act because of how important it has been. It has created employment opportunities and community integration for people with disabilities.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against people with physical or mental disabilities by employers, state and local governments, public accommodations, transportation and other areas. Tuesday was a chance for disabled residents whose lives have been made better thanks to the program to come and hear about what challenges still lie ahead. In an era where more living and job opportunities and accommodations exist for disabled individuals, one huge challenge remains in getting them where they need to go.
“There is a large group of people that falls in this gap, that either can’t use public transportation or don’t qualify for Medicaid, and can’t use Medicaid-based transportation,” said Janna Kopacki, Director of Benefit Services for Southern Adirondack Independent Living (SAIL). “That is a big barrier we’re trying to overcome. We do have an accessible van, so we’re trying to work out a program to get that up and going so we can help people there.”
The event was followed by a reception in the school cafeteria, with both SAIL and the WWAARC setting up tables where disabled neighbors visiting could find out more about what services are available to them. State Assemblyman Matthew Simpson attended, too, to hear about what he and his fellows can do at the state level to make life better for the North Country’s disabled communities.
“There’s always the financial aspect, which I’ve been supportive of and I think the legislature has been very supportive of, to support these services, to ensure that these people are leading the same lives that we are,” Simpson said. “We need to keep working every day. We’ve made great strides, but there’s a lot of work to do ahead of us.”
Southern Adirondack Independent Living operates out of Queensbury, facilitating disabled individuals with equipment and assistance programs that improve individual lifestyles. WWAARC is a nonprofit operating 35 residences, 30 supported living apartments, five day programs and a community employment system, as a chapter of The Arc New York.