On April 14, 2010, in Washington, D.C., the Epilepsy Foundation hosted its annual Distinguished Achievement Awards Gala celebrating the anniversary of landmark national civil rights legislation.
Twenty years ago, Congress enacted legislation to ensure people with disabilities had equal protection under the law. Just as civil rights legislation in the 1960s prohibited discrimination based on race, the Americans with Disabilities Act promised that people with disabilities should have the same rights and protections as all other Americans.
Unfortunately, that promise was broken. Several Supreme Court rulings aimed at interpreting what Congress meant by the ADA narrowed the scope of the law to such an extent that people with disabilities, including epilepsy, were not covered.
It became a catch–22 as Americans facing discrimination were either too functional and therefore could not sue under the ADA, or were not functional and, while now protected by law, were unable to work.
On the 20th Anniversary of the ADA, the Epilepsy Foundation honored two members of Congress, Steny Hoyer and Jim Sensenbrenner, who led the fight to restore the promise of the ADA.
But having equal protection under the law is only part of gaining independence for people with disabilities—you need to have a job too!
With employment you decide where and how you want to live your life; without employment you are dependent on someone to do that for you.
Employment is the single biggest factor in improving quality of life—regardless of whether or not you have a disability. But for people with epilepsy capable of full employment, the jobless rate is three times the national average.
The Epilepsy Foundation also honored CSC, a company setting a leadership example in employment of people with disabilities. CSC demonstrates that employing people with disabilities is not charity but an outstanding business practice.