The Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law, 26 years ago - July 26, 1990. But how much has really changed?

Yes, today we have wheelchair ramps and handrails, and public transportation specifically designed for the physically disabled and much more too --many educational barriers eliminated and even sport and recreation access opportunities created. The ADA has given many more people a chance for fuller lives and a chance to contribute their talents and abilities to our nation. But 26 years later, the disabled are still not full members of our communities. In 2010, only 41% of disabled individuals had jobs.

Despite having the highest rates of unemployment of any group, the disabled are rarely mentioned in any published labor and unemployment reports. The media routinely leaves the disabled out of any unemployment discussion. Even the Federal government defines unemployment in such a manner that they disabled will never be properly considered.

We need systemic change, in our schools, in our companies, in our housing facilities, in our communities, and in our health care systems, to address the needs of the disabled.

Whether they suffer from mental, cognitive, emotional, or physical disabilities, visible or unseen, disabled people are entitled to be treated as equal citizens --entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

They deserve to be counted and acknowledged by our government so that they can be included in educational, employment, treatment, and housing programs. And they deserve to be listened to when they speak, even if they have difficulty communicating.

They deserve decent homes. They deserve to be treated with respect, not ridicule. And above all, they deserve to be able to participate in our communities in public without fear of being shot simply for not being able to properly understand and process what is going on around them.

Let me describe the life of one member of my own family, D.W., a middle-aged adult who suffers from paranoia and schizophrenia. I could have spoken about my mother who developed Alzheimer's disease and I have on Voices4Hillary but today D.W. and mentally disabled individuals are my focus in this post.

D.W. would love to have a job so he can have an income and more control over his life. He now has only ever ever shrinking government benefits, routinely cut by a Republican-controlled Congress, to support his life. He persists in trying to find work but he continues to face rejection from those who he hopes will be his employers but who don't really see him. They see only his disability.

D.W. is more fortunate that most mentally disabled individuals – as his guardian, I willingly drive him wherever he needs to go. But many of his peers lack transportation to get to work or interviews and have no one to help them. A job would give D.W. confidence and earnings but almost as important, it would give him coworkers --people to communicate with and interact with.

At present, D.W.'s social interactions are limited to his medical providers, therapists, pharmacists, a few kind local shopkeepers, and me. He has no friends. His neighbors ignore him and probably wish he'd move. Anyone who knew him from school and early adulthood has deserted him.

This is not unique to D.W. Individuals with mental disabilities are often isolated from society. When they do go out in public, they are shunned as "dangerous", even though the mentally disabled are far more likely to be victims of a crime than its perpetrators.

When I tried to take D.W. on vacation recently, I was actually asked by an airline employee if he was dangerous. I have been asked that question so many times, I now have a pat response: "No, he's not dangerous. But ask me that question one more time and you'll discover just how dangerous I can be!"

Navigating our communities and handling daily activities, such as shopping, can be an Olympic challenge for disabled individuals, with special challenges for the mentally disabled who frequently suffer from paranoia, like D.W.

These people have enough difficulty dealing with others; the current terrorism climate terrifies them and intensifies their fear of public situations. Forty-four states now allow open carry laws which further stoke their fears of strangers, strangers who may have mortal reactions to the behavior of a disabled individual.

I worry about D.W. when he is left alone in public even briefly. What if something unusual happens that draws the attention of the police? Individuals like D.W. do not have "appropriate" or "normal" reactions to events around them. He could panic if approached by police. Yet many police departments are not properly trained in how to handle these individuals. According to the ACLU, 350-500 mentally disabled individuals are killed by the police every year. I worry that D.W.'s fear will result in his death.

If I were not D.W.'s guardian, his life would be even more grim. Solutions for his condition are rare and short-term, but, all too often, the prison system is the solution of choice for "treating" an individual with a mental illness. Treatment facilities, if available, only offer short-term stays; those that offer longer care are often privately operated and beyond the financial reach of most individuals. But even though I willingly care for D.W, whom I dearly love, I worry that he will fall victim to abuse and neglect and theft should I die before him or am no longer able to care for him.

If no other family member is able to step in, the court system will appoint a guardian. Often, these appointments are to local attorneys whose principal qualification is that they are friends of the judges appointing them. I have testified before Governor Cuomo's Moreland Commission on Ethics on the abuses of the disabled in the NYS courts. Too often funds, even private trusts, are mismanaged and those who should be protected are neglected, with court oversight negligible. Poor rules and practices, judicial and attorney ignorance, poor state laws, through which frequently court-appointed "trustees" are paid on a commission basis which encourages misuse of funds, too often enables abuse of the disabled.

Similar difficulties are also faced by individuals with physical and emotional disabilities and other individuals needing care such as the frail elderly and the very young. These are our family, our neighbors and our friends. People, just like us.

While our society at present is not generous in caring for its disabled citizens, or even caring about them, Americans do care about this. A recent poll by Bloomberg asked which of Trump's many offensive attacks on Americans --people of Mexican background, Judge Curiel, Captain Khan's parents, and so on --was most offensive. People were most offended by Trump's impression of Serge Koveleski, a disabled reporter.

Presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton is alone in championing rights and life opportunities for Disabled Americans. She never forgets them in her campaign speeches. She included them in her acceptance speech at the DNC. Nor has she ignored them when in positions of power.

Hillary appointed the first Special Advisor on Disability Rights during her tenure as Secretary of State.

In 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed Judith Heumann the first Special Advisor on Disability Rights. In 2012, she sponsored and opened the US Leadership Conference for International Disability Rights.

This fight is not new to her. She has fought for the rights of the disabled since her early days as an attorney working for the Children's Defense Fund. In that role, she investigated why so many children were missing school only to learn that their schools did not accommodate their disabilities. Her evidence to Congress helped support the passage of a federal law that guarantees that all children with disabilities will have access to school.

Hillary has consistently proven that she understands the challenges, difficulties, and issues of all types of disabilities and will fight to assure that these individuals receive the respect and equality they deserve.

Not surprisingly, she alone of our candidates has called for mental health to be treated with parity to physical health issues. Her proposed plan for autistic individuals calls for improving employment opportunities and housing availability and guaranteeing access to assistive technology.

She supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act which provides long-term services and durable medical equipment, both of which are lacking under Medicare, the only other viable health insurance option for the permanently disabled.

She also recognizes the difficulties facing family caregivers and supports tax relief and respite care to assist them. As Senator, Hillary championed the Respite Care Act to provide relief to the millions of family caregivers. She has been aggressive in denouncing sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.

Last month, in Philadelphia, Hillary broke the political glass ceiling to become the first female Democratic nominee for President. She recognized Disabled Citizens in that speech.

With Hillary in the White House, we will have the opportunity to rethink the kind of nation we want to be. We will also have the opportunity to rethink and strengthen the ADA. Perhaps then, 53 million Americans with disabilities will finally break their social, economic, and political ceilings and join our society as the equals they are. I trust Hillary to help make this happen.

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