City Honors Disabled Community As ADA Turns 28

by Alex Garrett

On July 26th, Mayor Bill de Blasio kicked off the annual Sapolin Awards at Gracie Mansion by stating strongly that “we want to be the fairest big city in America, and that means we have to be the most accessible big city in America!” That statement kicked off a night in which companies in and around NYC were honored for their support of the disabled community through employment opportunities; through accessibility to entertainment, including Broadway; and through technological accessibility.

The Mayor made it a point to honor the disabled community on the day the Americans With Disabilities Act turned 28 adding that the ADA is a “statement valuing each and every person”. The disabled community makes up 11.2% of the city’s population and companies like Uniqlo and Broadway chain Shubert Organization have not lost sight.

Among the award winners at Gracie Mansion was Hiroshi Taki, CEO of Uniqlo USA. He was awarded the Employment Award by the Mayor’s Office of People With Disabilities  (MOPD) Commissioner Victor Calise. Calise awarded Uniqlo because they have hired 20 disabled college students and recent graduates from the NYC area as they continue to expand. In entertainment, Robert Wankel, CEO of the Shubert Organization was given the Public Accomodation award for spearheading the efforts to making EVERY Broadway theater accessible through closed captioning, hearing devices and spatially. Wankel noted that while the Shubert Organization got the award, “the Broadway team is a community and so everybody is on board”.

In attendance was recently-named MTA President Andrew “Andy” Byford. He has put accessibility within mass transit front-and-center. He told me after the gala, “I can’t rest, I can’t call New York City Transit world class until it’s accessible to everyone.” For a closer look at Byford’s plan see HERE.  (https://www.mta.info/sites/default/files/mtaimgs/fast_forward_the_plan_to_modernize_nyct.pdf)

Queens College graduate and Flushing resident, Peter Trojic, who gets around the city in a wheelchair and is now part of the Heidi Latsky dance company talked to me after the event. Trojic, 30, said the ADA has shaped lives and for the City of New York to remember the passage is “greatly important because this is something that’s over. The disability rights movement is one of the last civil rights movements.”

While progress HAS been made in 28 years for Americans With Disabilities it’s important to note the cause never dies! For more information on how the city is working to aid the disabled community I’d urge you to visit the Office of People With Disabilities website to stay up-to-date and more importantly stay involved! (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/mopd/index.page)