Hillsborough County celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
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07/26/12 Samuel Johnson
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

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Twenty-two years ago people with disabilities got a wide range of federal protections for the first time. At the County Center in downtown Tampa yesterday state and local representatives, county workers and volunteers celebrated the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was signed by then-President George H. W. Bush and established protection for a wide range of disabled individuals. Although the law has become accepted and implemented in public and private, Hillsborough County’s ADA Liaison, Sandra Sroka, said continued awareness of the ADA is needed.

The group that organized the ADA: Innovation and Access celebration, the Hillsborough County Alliance for Citizens with Disabilities, handed out awards to people and businesses that made exceptional contributions to improving the lives of people with disabilities. One recipient was a major hotel chain which developed an employment program to foster independence among learning- and physically-impaired adults. County Commissioner Kevin Beckner suggested that tax incentives for small businesses hiring more disabled employees could benefit everyone.

Tax incentives are one way the government can promote innovation and access to people with disabilities. Another is passing city or county ordinances. Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman said a gas station ordinance would be a simple way to assist some people with disabilities.

A gas station ordinance illustrates how effective the ADA has evolved to accommodating some people with disabilities. It also shows the necessity for wider accommodations, like provisions for the Deaf or others without proficient verbal skills, like autism. The county’s disability liaison Sroka said disability rights advocates are aware of the law’s shortcomings and are focused on correcting that.

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