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MOD was pleased to have nearly 300 guests attend our inaugural Disability Summit, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at 25: Past, Present & Future on September 18, 2015. The event was held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and a breakfast buffet was served.  Here are some highlights from a memorable morning:

The Summit opened with a special surprise. A greeting was read from the signer of the ADA, President George H.W. Bush, to Summit attendees. The President’s letter reflected upon some of his remarks on July 26, 1990 when the ADA was signed into law and also looked towards the future, calling on disability advocates from both sides of the aisle to work together as a community to ensure “truly equal access in all aspects of life for people with disabilities.” MOD thanks President Bush for his touching message.

The Summit program featured six distinguished speakers who discussed their work and insights on the past, present and future of the ADA:

Kenneth An, Director of the Boston Area Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) spoke about Title I of the ADA: Employment, discussing the definition of “disability” under the ADA in detail. Kenneth also shared EEOC data that shows that in the last five years, there has been a 10% increase in the number of charges filed with EEOC by people with disabilities, which demonstrates a need for increased coverage and protection from disability discrimination in employment under the ADA.

Speaker Kenneth An, Director of Boston Area EEOC Office addresses the audience

Speaker Kenneth An, Director of Boston Area EEOC Office addresses the audience

Kristen McCosh, Commissioner of the Boston Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities appointed by the late Thomas M. Menino presented on Title II of the ADA: State & Local Government.  Kristen recounted the installation of Boston’s “historical” brick sidewalks as part of urban renewal in the 1950s-1970s which continue to be at the center of the City’s access issues. She also highlighted how far Boston has come in terms of disability access since pre-ADA times.

Mary Margaret Moore, Executive Director of the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, Inc. (ILCNSCA) focused on Title III of the ADA: Public Accommodations and discussed with a touch of humor ILCNSCA’s very interesting Restaurant Accessibility Survey Project (RASP) in which volunteers with disabilities conducted informal accessibility surveys of restaurants for parking, entrance, restroom, and communication access. Volunteers assigned restaurants a rating of 1-6 universal access symbols.

Jeffrey Kramer, Executive Director of Public Policy & Strategic Alliances for Verizon spoke about Title IV of the ADA: Telecommunications and Verizon’s recent efforts to comply, including data-only plans for individuals who do not use voice service and descriptive video service for customers with visual impairments. Jeff expressed pride in Verizon’s being a leader in accessibility and the Verizon Center for Customers with Disabilities based in Massachusetts.

Covering Title V of the ADA: Miscellaneous was John Lozada, Manager of Federal Programs for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Civil Rights Division, who gave an interesting talk covering various ADA subjects such as Project Civic Access, which allows for the Federal Government to check on the progress of local ADA Transition Plans. John also made some predictions as to how current topics such as medical marijuana use and gender identity/trans issues may play out in future ADA litigation.

MOD Director David D’Arcangelo, who served as emcee of the Summit, closed the speaker program with his personal account of how disability has been a part of his life and family as well as MOD’s role as a resource for the disability community.

Tom Hopkins accepts the MOD Thomas P. Hopkins Disability Access Award with David D'Arcangelo, Kenneth An, Kristen McCosh applauding

Tom Hopkins accepts the MOD Thomas P. Hopkins Disability Access Award

The Summit concluded with the first ever MOD Thomas P. Hopkins Disability Access Award, presented to Tom Hopkins, Director of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board since August 2002, for whom the award is named. Tom delivered an inspiring and emotional acceptance speech that moved the entire audience.  Tom dedicated his award to three disability advocates who recently passed away before seeing their push for improved access realized.

MOD would like to thank everyone who attended and participated in the Summit; we could not have had such a successful event without you.  We look forward to seeing you all for next year’s Summit on September 16, 2016!

Summit speakers from left to right: Kenneth An, John Lozada, Jeffrey Kramer, Kristen McCosh, Mary Margaret Moore and David D'Arcangelo

Summit speakers from left to right: Kenneth An, John Lozada, Jeffrey Kramer, Kristen McCosh, Mary Margaret Moore and David D’Arcangelo

 

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