Hohenstein hosts Policy hearing on disability rights, first Disabilities Summit in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 17 – To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, state Rep. Joe Hohenstein spearheaded a series of events held Thursday at  Community Behavioral Health geared toward improving disability rights and services across Pennsylvania.

The freshman legislator kicked off the series with his first Disabilities Summit, which focused on the successes of disability rights in the three decades since the enactment of the ADA and explored other progressive measures through discussions among community and business stakeholders, and federal and state elected officials.

“I am excited to have this summit to initiate conversations reflecting on the progress the ADA has made for disability rights and how we as advocates from the government, the business community, and local advocacy groups, can work together to build upon that progress,” Hohenstein said. “Demanding and ensuring rights for citizens living with disabilities takes a concerted effort from all advocacy factions. I am especially grateful for our partners at SpARC and Philadelphia Autism Project who have worked tirelessly to put together the program.”

To bolster disability rights through governmental policy, Hohenstein also hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing to discuss more comprehensive approaches to strengthen the ADA and ensure accessibility to services, equal rights and equal opportunities for all Pennsylvanians living with disabilities. He was joined by fellow state legislators, including HDPC Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.

“It’s critical that we have these discussions to focus on what more our legislature can do to guarantee equality and visibility for many Pennsylvanians living with disabilities,” Sturla said.

Testifiers during the hearing included state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Phila; Karen Goss, director, Mid-Atlantic ADA Center; Neil McDevitt, executive director, Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre; a representative from the Pennsylvania Home Care Association; Latoya Maddox, advocate and independent living specialist; Liam Dougherty, advocate and member of Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania Inc.; Harry Barnum, deaf outreach and education coordinator, Liberty Resources; Stash Serafin, motivational speaker and blind ice skater; and Lori McFarland, advocate and actor in A Fierce Kind of Love, which explores the diversity of the disability community.