Today I join Americans across our country in celebrating the 9th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Next year, at the dawn of the millennium, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 25th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. These two laws, championed by disability advocates throughout the United States and serving as a beacon for people throughout the world, have helped to transform our nation's disability policy. In 1993, Vice President Gore and I established three core principles for our Administration's disability policy -- inclusion, independence, and empowerment. Like many racial and ethnic groups throughout history, people with disabilities have endured isolation and segregation because of social discrimination. Now, we strive to promote inclusion for people with disabilities in all aspects of American society, just as we do for racial and ethnic minorities. In the past, Americans have presumed that disability meant a life of dependence. Now, we recognize that people with disabilities want to -- and can -- lead independent lives and contribute to our nation's prosperity. For too long, we have encumbered disabled Americans with paternalistic policies that prevent them from reaching their potential. But now, we endeavor to empower individuals with the tools they need to achieve their dreams.

Disability advocates have drawn our nation's attention to the pervasive stigma and discrimination faced by people with disabilities. Never before has disability been so prominently discussed in the mainstream media. We must use this rising level of awareness to infuse the values of the ADA -- equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency -- into all aspects of government and social policy.

To succeed, we must be vigilant in defending the ADA as well as vigorous in enforcing it. I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the rights established in the ADA by recognizing that the unjustified isolation and segregation of persons with disabilities in institutional settings is a form of discrimination prohibited by the ADA. But I am concerned that the way the Court defined disability could undermine the ADA's nondiscrimination goals. We must work together to ensure that the ADA's original intent -- to dismantle discrimination based on accumulated myths and fears -- is sustained. No American -- on account of race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or disability -- should be denied the opportunity to hold a job for which he or she is fully capable.

While the ADA has been a source of hope to our citizens with disabilities, it has not been enough to change the intolerable rate of unemployment. My Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities is building on the ADA's foundation by developing a coordinated and active employment agenda for people with disabilities. Increasing access to health care, providing more assistance at home and on the job, maximizing the use of new technologies -- these are the kinds of actions that will empower all Americans to participate fully in the workplace.

This year, my budget includes a three-part initiative aimed at removing significant barriers to work for people with disabilities. This proposal invests $2 billion over five years to help provide better health care options for people with disabilities who work by fully funding the Work Incentives Improvement Act; offers a $1,000 tax credit for work-related expenses; and doubles our investment in assistive technology. My budget also would target tax credits for working adults with disabilities who have long-term care needs. On July 1, we raised the amount an SSDI or SSI recipient can earn -- without losing crucial benefits -- from $500 to $700 per month. And, under the leadership of Tipper Gore, we are beginning to address the stigma and discrimination confronted by people with psychiatric disabilities.

By modernizing and strengthening Medicare, increasing access to prescription drugs, and passing a meaningful patients' bill of rights, we can further reach our goals of inclusion, independence, and empowerment for people with disabilities. I especially urge Congress to move swiftly and pass the Work Incentives Improvement Act. As I said in my State of the Union Address, "No one should have to choose between keeping health care and taking a job." We cannot think of Social Security benefits and other services and supports as antithetical to the civil rights goals of the ADA. We must, instead, view them as important tools for empowering people with disabilities to lead independent lives as equal citizens in our social mainstream. Thank you for all you have done to realize the promise of the ADA. Only by fully utilizing the contributions of every sector of our society -- advocacy, business, service organizations, government -- can we achieve our goals. Together, as Justin Dart continually reminds us, we shall overcome.

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