Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrates 25 Years in July

July 26, 2015, marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Celebrations of the signing of the ADA by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990 will take place in Washington D.C., St. Louis, and cities across the nation this year.
Today, approximately 57.8 million Americans have a disability, including 5.5 million disabled American veterans.
Unlike a generation ago, all people who are disabled now benefit from wheelchair-accessible public restrooms and curb ramps, parking spaces for the disabled, wide checkout areas at stores, Braille signage for people who are visually impaired, specialized arts and entertainment accessibility and more made possible by the ADA.
Despite this landmark legislation, many disability rights issues, especially employment, still need to be addressed.
David Newburger, J.D., is Commissioner on the Disabled for the City of St. Louis and Co-Director of Starkloff Disability Institute ( Newburger had polio as an infant and has mobility disabilities.
“Unemployment levels among people with disabilities are much the same as 1990 when the ADA was enacted,” Newburger says. “About 80 percent of working age people with disabilities do not have jobs,” he says. “That compares to about 40 percent of the entire working age population.”
Department of Labor Hiring Goals
To begin securing employment for more people with disabilities, the Department of Labor promulgated a new rule under section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. The new rule requires federal contractors to have a goal of seven percent of their workforce be people with disabilities and, if they cannot meet that goal, to document their serious effort to achieve it.
The new rule affects about 171,000 companies doing business with the federal government. Newburger believes many companies are trying to figure out how to effectively employ and retain qualified people with disabilities.
To address the problem the Starkloff Disability Institute (SDI) developed “The Next Big Step” program, so named because getting a job is the next big step for many people with disabilities. St. Louis-based companies including Ansira, Centene, Enterprise Holdings, Express Scripts and Nestle Purina, participate in this initiative.
SDI offers training so human resources staff and hiring managers can become more familiar with people with disabilities and overcome preconceived notions, including costs of accommodating employees who are disabled. Steve Degnan, Chief Human Resources Officer of Nestle Purina and SDI’s board chairman, calls the cost of accommodations trivial, especially given the usually high retention rates of employees with disabilities.
SDI seeks out educated people with disabilities that companies might hire. Many of those people are job-qualified but don’t know how to show companies the value that they will bring to the job. SDI runs classes on job seeking skills and consults with those who cannot participate in classes. SDI involves human resource staff and hiring managers in teaching productive job-seeking skills to people with disabilities.
“Unemployment of people with disabilities is a national problem,” says Newburger. “Leading job candidates who are disabled to successful employment will help fulfill the vision of the ADA.”
For more information, contact the Starkloff Disability Institute at (314) 588 7090.


Left: David Newburger, J.D., Commissioner of the Disabled
for the City of St. Louis and Co-Director of Starkloff Disability Institute.

July 23, 2015





St. Louis Disability Leader Colleen Starkloff to Speak in Washington D.C.


July 26, 2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Celebrations are taking place in Washington, D.C. and across the nation.


St. Louis disability rights leader Colleen Starkloff is in Washington D.C. to speak at the national ADA rally on the steps of the United States Capitol. Starkloff is attending the national conference sponsored by the National Council on Independent Living. Her late husband, Max J. Starkloff, is a founding member of the organization.


Thousands of disability rights advocates and leaders are gathering to commemorate the signing of the landmark civil rights legislation by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.  The ADA ensures equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities and protects against discrimination. The disability community has made great strides due to this landmark legislation, especially in increased access to education, health care, transportation, and housing.Approximately 57.8 million Americans have a disability, including 5.5 million disabled American veterans.


ADA 25 STL is the St. Louis contribution to the national celebration. Organized by Starkloff Disability Institute, ADA 25 STL is presented by Centene Corporation and in partnership with the Missouri History Museum and the disability community in the St. Louis Region.  The celebration is planned for October 3rd in Forest Park. More information is available at


The festival will include a celebration march in Forest Park at 11 a.m. The Honorable Tony Coehlo, former U.S. Representative and chief sponsor of the ADA in the U.S. House of Representatives, will then talk about employment as the Next Big Step for the disability community.   Regional corporate sponsors will have tables where job seekers can network and leave their resumes with employers seeking qualified candidates with disabilities.


The ADA Legacy Project Freedom Bus and the USBLN Disability Rights Museum on Wheels (DRMW) will be part of the celebration. St Louis is included in the DRMW. The first Open Door Award will be given to individuals and organizations helping to create a welcoming world for people with disabilities.  Food trucks will be available or bring your own picnic lunch.  Live music will cap off the festivities.


For more information visit


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