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Missourians rally for Disability History and Awareness Month

This month is Disability History and Awareness Month, and also marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark federal law for disability rights. Though the ADA had little direct impact on the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income programs, it has helped numerous disabled Missourians receive reasonable accommodation for their conditions, allowing them to lead fuller lives.

Earlier in October, an event at the state capitol marked these occasions. As KBIA-FM reports, speakers at the rally also pushed for reforms, starting with changing the face of the state legislature to include more disabled people. Chuck Graham, a former state senator who is now associate director of the Great Plains ADA, notes that he was the first -- and so far, only -- Missouri legislator to use a wheelchair. “If we are 20 percent of the population,” Graham said at the rally, “there should be more than zero of us in there out of 197 members.”

Graham also called for greater understanding of the financial burden that often comes with being disabled, such as trying to stay qualified for Medicare.

Still, the ADA has made a big difference. Another speaker, Opeoluwa Sotonwa of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing, told the crowd that he was “humiliated,” “dehumanized” and “demonized” in his native country of Nigeria for being deaf. “We still have a long way to go, but we have come so far,” another speaker noted.

The ADA has indeed affected the lives of most disabled people in Missouri, allowing many of them to work. But some disabilities make earning a significant income impossible, which is where SSD and SSI come in.

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