Mon Jul 26, 8:39 PM
By Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama marked Monday’s 20th anniversary of a landmark law barring discrimination against people with disabilities by promising to boost government efforts at recruiting, hiring and retaining people with physical and mental limitations.
In a ceremony on the White House South Lawn, Obama signed an executive order requiring the federal personnel agency to develop model guidelines for hiring people with disabilities. Progress reports would have to be posted online.
The ceremony, attended by White House officials, Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, community leaders and people with disabilities, featured a reading through a sign language interpreter by actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, and an emotional performance by singer Patti LaBelle, who has diabetes.
Obama also announced that the Justice Department was publishing new rules to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities by more than 80,000 state and local government entities and 7 million private businesses.
He also said that, beginning in 2012, all new construction must meet new standards for the design of doors, windows, elevators and bathrooms. The requirement covers everything from stores and restaurants to schools, stadiums, hospitals, hotels and theatres, Obama said.
Attorney General Eric Holder also is preparing new rules to ensure people with disabilities have access to websites, Obama said.
“Not dependence, but independence,” the president said. “That’s what the ADA was all about.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act became law on July 26, 1990, signed by President George H.W. Bush to ban workplace discrimination against qualified
people with disabilities and require improved access to public places and transportation.
Bush was unable to attend Monday’s ceremony, but he and Obama spoke by telephone before the event.
“He was very humble about his own role, but I think it’s worth acknowledging the great work that he did,” Obama said.