This last month we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Back in 1990, President George Bush signed the legislation and predicted that it would make the lives of disabled people much better.
It has done that. Disabled Americans have much better access to public buildings. All you have to do to understand the profound impact the law has had in America is to travel to other countries around the world. You see restaurants, museums, and churches that do not provide any means of access to a disabled person.
Although the Americans With Disabilities Act has been a success, there is one significant concern. Dr. Merrill Matthews in a recent column wonders why we are seeing such a dramatic increase in people receiving disability payments. Shouldn’t the new technologies and greater access to buildings and facilities make it possible for fewer Americans to receive payments? That is not what has happened.
From 1970 to 1990, the number of Americans receiving payments increased a small amount. But after 1990 when the ADA was passed, the number of Americans receiving payments increased four times faster. The ADA was supposed to make it easier for disabled Americans to find a job and keep it. The number should have gone down not shot up almost exponentially.
While many who receive these benefits truly need them, there are sadly too many who are probably gaming the system in order to receive benefits. Investigative reporters have found many stories of how this is done. Of greater concern is the latest report from the Social Security trustees that the disability fund will exhaust its reserves by the end of next year.
Twenty-five years after the passage of the ADA, it is time for Congress to go back and prevent waste and fraud from harming disabled Americans who truly need our help.