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Americans with Disabilities Act is 32 years old; legislators hope to keep disabled in their homes

Lawmakers across the country celebrated National Disability Independence Day on the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, this week.

The Americans with Disabilities Act established a comprehensive ban on discrimination based on disability, granting those with disabilities equal access to the opportunities everyone in the general public already had. This act granted a layer of civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities, similar to the action taken in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Currently, there are over one million adult Kentuckians who suffer from a disability, which is equivalent to roughly 33% percent of the population. Though the ADA granted equal rights to those affected, 32 years later a disparity remains.

“With 1 in 3 Kentuckians suffering from a disability, the most logical action to take is finding a way to let people with disabilities remain at home,” Representative Jason Nemes (R) of Louisville said. “Rarely does a home come equipped with the technology and infrastructure needed to let someone with a disability live comfortably. In a time of such economic uncertainty, there is an added level of hardship when someone has to go out of their way to update their home so they can perform a task that most of us would take for granted, like bathing.”

In recognition of this national holiday, Nemes and Nima Kulkarni (D-Louisville) unveiled a plan to craft a piece of bi-partisan legislation that would grant homeowners a financial incentive to equip their homes with handicap-accessible infrastructure to allow those affected to stay at home.

“The legislation Representative Nemes and I are sponsoring would help so many Kentuckians with disabilities live in their own homes independently,” said Representative Kulkarni. “The need to take this step is clear, especially for those living in older homes. I am proud to work with my colleague across the aisle and with disability advocates as we build momentum to make this bipartisan legislation a reality. This is a natural extension of Kentucky’s ongoing commitment to fulfill the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Dr. Sheila Schuster and Katie Bentley, Co-Chairs of Kentucky’s 874K Disabilities Coalition, expressed their strong support for the home repair legislation to be considered in the 2023 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly. “This bill, which would make funding available for needed home repairs, particularly for individuals with disabilities, will make it easier for our fellow Kentuckians to remain in their homes in the communities of their choice.  As we commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we see this legislation as supporting the values and protections in the ADA and taking an important step forward to making those with disabilities more independent.”

“We are celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the ADA, an Act that has afforded the largest minority in Kentucky and in the United States the opportunity for full inclusion in all our communities. We now have greater access to businesses, public accommodations, employment, communications, and other services. Unfortunately, there is still a gap with regard to accessible housing,” David Allgood, Director of Advocacy of the Center for Accessible Living added. “The vast majority of homes built over the past hundred years have not included any accessibility features, and can be impossible to retrofit for someone with a disability who may not be able to get around in their existing home anymore. This legislation would go a long way to bridging that gap.”

This legislative issue will be discussed through the interim and introduced as legislation during the 2023 Regular Session of the General Assembly. For more information on future legislation as well as interim meetings, please visit legislature.ky.gov.

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