As many of you know, my wife Cheryl was injured in a car accident when she was 22 years old. The injuries she sustained from that incident have shaped her life ever since. She became a tireless advocate for the disabled and served as a board member of the American Association of People with Disabilities. Despite the pain and daily struggles she endures, she has never let those challenges slow her down or damper her spirit.

She has been a powerful force for good, and has inspired my efforts to fight on behalf of the disabled.

I supported and helped pass the original Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and introduced the ADA Restoration Act of 2007. I later sponsored the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which President George W. Bush signed into law.

Congress passed the ADA to break down the physical and societal barriers that kept disabled Americans from fully participating in the American Dream. From creating standards for wheelchair accessibility in places open to the public to requiring 911 phone lines to be equipped to respond to hearing-impaired callers, the ADA has transformed the lives of millions of Americans. The progress we’ve made is remarkable, and I’m proud to have been part of these efforts. But there is still more than can be done to improve the lives of America’s disabled citizens.

That’s why this week I introduced the Disability Integration Act. This legislation would help assure the full integration of Americans with disabilities into communities nationwide, and would amend the ADA to make it clear that every individual eligible for long term services and support (LTSS) has the right to choose how they receive support. It would also assure that the states and other LTSS funders provide services in ways that allow beneficiaries to live as independently as possible. 

Additionally, the Disability Integration Act establishes a comprehensive state planning requirement comparable to the transition planning processes required under the ADA and would require them to address the need for affordable and accessible integrated housing, as well as establish targeted enforcement measures.

This legislation, along with the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act – which I introduced earlier this year – would add to the successes of the ADA and improve the lives of millions of Americans living with disabilities.

Our nation is stronger when all of its citizens are given the opportunity to succeed, and the bipartisan efforts of Congress to help individuals with disabilities are powerful reminders of the good work we can do in government when we put aside our differences to achieve a common goal.