Jul 26, 2021
Joe Biden & Kamala Harris Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Speech Transcript
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris gave remarks on July 26, 2021 to mark the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Read the transcript of their speeches here.
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Vice President Kamala Harris: (00:15)
Good morning, everyone. Please have a seat. Good morning. Well, July 26th, 1990, was indeed an historic day. On that day, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. On that day, America became better. Because we know, an accessible America is a better America. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Leader Kevin McCarthy, Chairman Pat Leahy, Senator Bob Casey, thank you all for your leadership. Steny Hoyer, I’m getting to you in a second, for being here today. Looking out, I see so many who helped make the ADA real. The activists who gave everything they had to fight for that bill. The advocates who helped to shape the bill title by title. The policy makers who worked tirelessly to pass it, including of course our own president, Joe Biden, house majority leader, Steny Hoyer, and Congressman Tony Coelho. Thank you all.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (01:50)
Every day in every community, lives of the American people are better because of the work you all did. When people can ride a bus because it has a lift, when they can enter a building, because it has a ramp, when they can watch a movie with closed captions, when a student with a disability goes to school, instead of discrimination gets support, that is the ADA in action. The ADA gives all Americans the opportunity to fully participate in our democracy, in our economy and in our society. The ADA gives all Americans the opportunity to determine their own future. Self-determination, which I believe the government must facilitate, that is the impact of the ADA. And after all, the promise of America.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (03:03)
At the same time, truth must be told. The ADA was a very important beginning, but there is still so much work to be done, both on enforcement and future legislation. And that is why I am so heartened to see the generations of leaders who are here and remain committed to doing this work. In fact, earlier this month, I met with several leaders of the disability community who are fighting for voting rights. And they told me about the obstacles voters with visible and invisible disabilities face when casting a ballot: long lines, rickety ramps, broken elevators, tables that are either too high or too low, complications with voting assistance. The list goes on and on.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (04:03)
One of the leaders in fact said to me, she said, “Vice President, equity cannot be achieved without disability being part of the equation.” This is a fight that is a civil rights fight, a human rights fight. This is about equity. And whether or not we are truly committed to the principles of equity in every way that we as government and as a society can enforce those important principles. And as we all know, that truth is not just about voting then, it is also about employment. It is about an education starting with pre-K. It is about being able to live in your home and participate in your community, which is also why we must invest in in-home and community-based services.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (05:01)
So folks, here’s the bottom line, the president and I will continue to fight with you to make America more accessible for all people. This work is urgent. And the reason we do it is obviously important, because every person in our country deserves the opportunity to dream with ambition, to have choices, to shape their own future unencumbered by any barrier, free from any obstacle. Because this, as we know is the very definition of self-determination and this is the United States of America. So thank you all for your courage and for your commitment.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (05:47)
And now it is my great honor to introduce a person, a leader who exemplifies all of that. Tyree Brown is an artist who lives in Maryland, and she is focused on building a future of her own design. I am grateful to her for her extraordinary leadership and that she is here with us today. Please welcome Tyree Brown.
Tyree Brown: (06:28)
Hello, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here. All right. As it was said, my name is Tyree Brown, and I’m a 26 year old Christian artist living in Maryland with faith in Jesus Christ. I was in a car accident that rendered me quadriplegic. Art and faith has always been a prominent part of my life, but everything changed after my injury. I can no longer walk or use my dominant right hand. I was sent to a rehabilitation center, National Rehab Hospital, then to a nursing home, back to rehab, only to go back to the nursing home where I stayed another 10 months.
Tyree Brown: (07:07)
I was away from my home for over a year. While in the nursing home, a program called Money Follows the Person intervened, which the president supports, investing more funding in the home and community-based waiver program that helps those who choose to be home in their communities by supplying durable medical equipment, home modifications and home health care services, a program that is made possible by the ADA. This program made it possible for my mother, Deree Cox, hi mom, to be my full time aid, where I received the best care full of love and grace. I want to thank President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the Biden administration for being advocates for the disability community.
Tyree Brown: (07:59)
With American Jobs Plan, there’s a $400 billion investment in caregiving economy. And this will directly positively impact my mother as she is my aid. Moving forward, my goal is to be able to access affordable accessible housing, to live in on my own more independently. I’ve been on the waiting list for three years, but I hope to move to my own place soon.
Tyree Brown: (08:33)
I’m now home with my family and working as a freelance visual artist. I received my associates degree at the Corcoran College, which is actually across the street from here. I exhibited my work at the Corcoran’s NEXT Exhibition, as well as RAW Showcase Exhibition. I attend Highway Deliverance Church where I volunteer in the reading of the Bible for my pastor, Pastor Hughes. I am also a new volunteer with the Disability Partnerships, a non-profit organization that aims to support individuals with disabilities like myself. I’m also a newly board member of Independence Now, also a nonprofit organization.
Tyree Brown: (09:13)
Because of the ADA, I was provided with numerous services, like the Money Follows the Person program. The ADA pushed for a more inclusive environment for wheelchair users, like making more public buildings and more public transportation wheelchair accessible. The ADA pushed for wheelchair ramps, curb cutouts in public spaces, which made it possible for me to get around throughout my community. I was worried I would not be able to live independently and pursue my dreams of being an artist, but now there are programs that are helping me achieve my goals. It is thanks to the ADA, which paved the way for me, with the full support of President Biden. Thank you President Biden and Vice President Harris for advocating for the disability community and celebrating the 31st anniversary of the ADA. I am honored to be here and especially to now introduce, President Joe Biden.
President Joe Biden: (10:21)
Madam Vice President, Tyree, you’re an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story. 31 years ago today on the south lawn of the White House, President George H. W. Bush signed the American Disabilities Act. He was surrounded by disability advocates and bi-partisan members of the United States Congress, just as we are today. Speaker Pelosi, welcome by the way, Madam Speaker. Chairman Leahy, Leader McCarthy, Senator Casey, Congressman Scott, Congressman … Where is he? There you are Paul. You understand this better than anybody does. I want to thank you Congressman, with all your work. And I want to thank you all for being here. By the way, where’s mom? Mom, is she here?
Tyree Brown: (11:17)
President Joe Biden: (11:18)
Oh, she’s watching. Okay. I thought you had looked and said, mom, was out there. I was going to ask her to stand up. But mom, you can stand up if you’re home. Folks, thank you for what you’ve done.
President Joe Biden: (11:32)
The second gentlemen is here as well. Thank you for being with us as well. Some of the same folks who fought so hard for this landmark legislation are with us today. I just got off the phone with one of them, a guy named Tom Harkin. Two days ago, I was on the phone with one who just had his 98th birthday, Bob Dole. But no one worked harder than Tony Coelho to get this done. House majority leader, Steny Hoyer. Others weren’t able to join us today, but were instrumental in bringing this to life.
President Joe Biden: (12:06)
Dear friends, as I said, like Tom Harkin and Bob Dole. And also spoke, as I said, Bob is wanting to pass on his regards as did Tom. Tom’s up in Wisconsin working on, he said on ADA, doing something up there. He didn’t explain exactly what. There’s still more with us that are here in spirit, like Ted Kennedy, Major Owens, the Congressman Major Owens, countless others advocates.
President Joe Biden: (12:32)
I was enormously proud to be a co-sponsor of the ADA, as Pat Leahy was as well, if I’m not mistaken, as a member of the United States Senate. And I’m proud to be here today as president, alongside so many fearless champions who represents the ongoing legacy of this law from the foundation to its future. 31 years ago, after his passage, many Americans have never lived in a world without the ADA. Generations have grown up not knowing a time before it existed, but many of us can still recall in America where a person with disability was denied service in restaurants and grocery stores, and could be. Where a person using a wheelchair couldn’t ride in a train or take a bus to work or to school. Where an employer could refuse to hire you because of a disability. And America that wasn’t built for all Americans.
President Joe Biden: (13:27)
Then when we passed the ADA, it made a commitment to build a nation for all of us. All of us. And we moved America closer to fulfilling that promise of Liberty and justice, and maybe most importantly, dignity and equality for all. And perhaps most importantly, we did it together. This was a Democratic bill signed by a Republican president, a product of passion and compassion, not partisanship. Progress, it wasn’t a political, but personal to millions of families.
President Joe Biden: (14:02)
I’ll never forget the moment the ADA passed, and you may remember, Pat, stand on the floor of the United States Senate and Tom Harkin, he rose. And the first time, first time in the history that I’m aware of, the United States Senate, he stood up and he signed in a speech to his brother. Tom wasn’t just sending a message to millions of deaf and hard of hearing folks, he was speaking to his brother, Frank. It was personal to him. It was personal to Bob Dole as well, who lost the use of his right arm in a heroic effort during World War II, who laid out in a hospital for almost three years. His injury is listed. And they’ve also lasted an entire lifetime. But like so many Americans, he turned his disability, his apparent limitation, into greater purpose and will. He made the rights of disabled Americans, a lifelong cause.
President Joe Biden: (15:02)
For more than 60 million Americans living with disabilities, the ADA is so much more than a law, it is a source of opportunity, participation, independent living and respect and dignity. The bulwark against discrimination and a path to independence. And for our nation, the ADA is more than the law as well. It’s testament to our character as a people, our character as Americans. It’s a triumph of American values, but of course this law didn’t bring the end of the work we need to do. Today, too many Americans still face barriers to freedom and equality. But thanks to this movement that spans all races, beliefs, backgrounds, and generations, we’re once again making progress together.
President Joe Biden: (15:52)
In my first day in office, I was proud to sign an executive order, establishing a government wide commitment to advancing equity, including people with disabilities. And I was proud to appoint the first ever White House disability policy director, Kim Knackstedt. Where are you, Kim? Where’s Kim? Thank you, Kim. And I’m ensuring that dignity and rights of disabled Americans are lifted up in every policy we pursue, from continuing to make sure that this administration looks like America, pointing people with disabilities to positions across the government.
President Joe Biden: (16:38)
In the American Rescue Plan, we’re able to include substantial support for schools to better serve students with disabilities, and expanding access to vaccines for disabled Americans. As part of my bill, Build Back Better Plan, it was already mentioned we proposed $400 billion to expand access to home and community-based care, helping people with disabilities and older adults live more independently. And I’m glad that Congress is beginning to move on the Better Care Better Jobs Act, championed by my buddy, Bobby Casey. Bobby, thank you. Which builds on that effort.
President Joe Biden: (17:15)
This past year, the entire nation saw just how vital our caregivers are, and how critical home-based care truly is for so many Americans. This legislation will help ensure that caregivers are fairly compensated for their work. In addition, I’ve also called on Congress to eliminate the discriminatory sub-minimum wage provisions that too often keep people with disabilities from getting good jobs with fair wages. Because of additional executive orders I’ve signed, we’re working to remove barriers that hold back disabled Americans from exercising their sacred right to vote. And we’re ensuring that the federal government is a model employer when it comes to wages, accommodations, and opportunities to advance people with disabilities. That’s a firm commitment.
President Joe Biden: (18:07)
And today, finally, I’m proud to announce a new effort. The first of its kind to help Americans grappling with longterm effects of COVID-19 that doctors call long COVID. Many Americans who seemingly recover from the virus, still face lingering challenges like breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue. These conditions can sometimes rise to the level of a disability. So we’re bringing agencies together to make sure Americans with long COVID who have a disability, have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law, which includes accommodations and services in the workplace, in school and our healthcare system, so they can live their lives in dignity and get the support they need as they continue to navigate these challenges.
President Joe Biden: (19:04)
We’ve made important progress, but we still have work to do. We have to keep going to ensure that every single American has a chance to contribute their talents and thrive and succeed. And to know that today’s fearless advocates, some of whom are with us today are going to accomplish incredible things. People like Mr. Toodle, where are you? Stand up, man. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
President Joe Biden: (19:33)
I thank you for your continued efforts to build an America for everyone. And as I said, you’re courageous advocates who led the way 31 years ago, long time before the foundation for progress is strong though. It’s part of the moral bedrock of our nation and something every American should be proud of. Now it’s my honor to sign the proclamation on the 31st anniversary of the ADA. I want to thank you all. May God bless you. And all of you dealing with disabilities, you are an inspiration to all of us. I really mean it. You’re an absolute inspiration. May God bless you all. And may God protects our troops. And I’m going to walk over and sign this.
President Joe Biden: (20:22)
I’m going to invite up though, Nancy, come on up. Stanny, I think we ought to get you up here. You’re a big part of it. Tony Coelho. Am I leaving anybody out? Pat, you were there at the time. Get your rear end up here. The leader has taken his camera, because Pat would rather use his camera than I think anything else. Come on. Tony, you get right in on the back. You were a big, big, gigantic part of this. [inaudible 00:21:09]. Anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act 2021. Tony, thank you. Good to see you. Madam speaker. Pat. I will, but I want to make sure I get all of them. Thank you everybody. Let’s keep it going. Well done.