By Shelley Roossien, Accessibility & Inclusion Specialist
2021 marks the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law in 1990, the ADA is an important piece of civil rights legislature that prevents discrimination against people with disabilities. Locally, Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC) has been supporting people with disabilities through programs, awareness campaigns, and education since 1981, and is the proud host of the annual ADA Celebration in our community.
Disability Advocates provides services on many levels, working directly with people with disabilities to help them achieve independence and lead self-directed lives. They also advocate for accessible communities, collaborating with employers and partnering with other organizations to ensure welcoming and inclusive spaces. DAKC offers an ADA Employment Advocacy service to help employers identify reasonable workplace accommodations for workers with disabilities and shares best practices on inclusivity with companies through their Disability Education Program. The vision is that everyone, regardless of ability, has access to equal rights and opportunities.
To help raise awareness, Disability Advocates hosts an annual ADA Celebration every summer around the anniversary of the legislation’s inception. The celebration brings many local organizations together to share information and resources to the community. Traditionally, the celebration has been held at the Kentwood Branch of KDL, and included vendors, live entertainment, singing, dancing and delicious food, all provided by a network of establishments committed to supporting people with disabilities.
“The ADA Celebration is truly a community event,” said Maddie Schaab, Development Associate at Disability Advocates.
Although this year’s event was held virtually, it featured several noteworthy speakers and messages from other local organizations, like Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services and the Area Agency on Aging of West Michigan.
As a non-profit organization, Disability Advocates relies on donations and community sponsorships to continue to offer their extensive services and programs. They are always looking for new local partnerships and to expand their network of volunteers. If you would like to get involved or have questions about getting disability support, contact them on their website or connect via Facebook, Youtube, Twitter or Instagram to stay up to date on the latest news and events.
KDL has created recommended reading suggestions for those wanting to learn more about people with disabilities. Check them out at kdl.org under We Recommend booklists. For more information about the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit the ADA National Network.
Kent District Library will be highlighting heritage and diversity events and festivals throughout the year and focusing on local organizations that bring awareness and engagement opportunities to our community.