Madam Speaker, 30 years ago — on July 26, 1990 — the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all facets of life ranging from employment and transportation to public accommodations and government services.
That is why today, in light of the anniversary of this revolutionary legislation, I rise to ask the House of Representatives to join me in recognizing Emmanuel Smith, Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security advocate at Disability Rights Iowa, as this week’s Iowan of the Week.
Emmanuel was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as Brittle Bone Disease, which causes his bones to break easily. Disability rights is a critical aspect of his life - and he's turned to giving back to this community and advocated on their behalf as his driving force. Emmanuel also found inspiration from meeting our Senator, Tom Harkin, the author and chief sponsor of the ADA, at its 10-year anniversary celebration.
After graduating from Drake University, Emmanuel began working for Disability Rights Iowa. He works hard to ensure others don’t have to face the same difficulties that he has in the past, and seeks to take down barriers to employment and fight workplace discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Emmanuel’s role within DRI has evolved as they address the additional challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emmanuel stepped up to the challenge and continues to fight for equitable employment services by teaching people about their rights in the context of working during a pandemic.
Emmanuel attributes many the opportunities he’s had to the ADA, claiming that without its protections, his life would look very different.
Without the ADA, he would not have had access to traditional education in high school or college. Accessible busing and Paratransit - services Emmanuel and many others rely on so they may travel independently - would not be possible if not for the ADA.
But while Emmanuel believes that the ADA has given people the possibility not to be restricted by their disabilities, he knows that there is still a long way to go before the intentions of the bill are fully realized. Emmanuel continues to advocate for universal, accessible design in Iowa cities and towns, push for an inclusive design for the Iowa caucuses, and push for putting more individuals with disabilities in leadership positions.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we must remember the importance of equality for all Americans. I am proud to know that there are people in Iowa like Emmanuel Smith who advocate for equal opportunities for their fellow Iowans and inspire the rest of us to join in this fight.
It is my honor to share Emmanuel Smith’s story today, and recognize him as our Iowan of the Week.