The 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this July presents us with an opportunity both to celebrate our country’s collective work on long term services and support and look ahead to the work that remains to be done to strengthen these critical services, including a well-supported, trained workforce and expanded resources for providers. 

The field of disability service providers is facing some serious challenges ranging from Medicaid cuts, block grants, and spending caps to increased regulatory and unfunded mandates. As these threats loom, the number of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities being served in the community nationwide is ever increasing.  We cannot abandon these individuals in the wake of celebrating one of the country’s most renowned pieces of civil rights legislation. 

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We must work side by side with our legislators, members of the administration and other important voices to reform the service delivery system, advance technology solutions, protect and promote the quality of services, and increase sustainable, affordable housing for people with disabilities. 

We must also all work together to expand successful programs like the home and community-based services under Medicaid that exhibit the leadership and innovation of our country to ensure that all individuals have access to community living. 

As a thought leader in the disabilities field, the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) has fought hard over its 45 year history to ensure that individuals with disabilities across the country have access to community services and supports. And this week that fight continues as it brings together hundreds of disability community service providers, direct support professionals, policymakers and others in the nation’s capital to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ADA’s 25th Anniversary presents us with an opportunity both to reflect on the important work that has been done to improve the lives of older disabled Americans, and to look ahead at the issues that will continue to shape the landscape for them in the years to come.

Our nation’s disability community providers are at the forefront in helping to shape this landscape, and in bridging the gap between promise and reality. In the past several decades, these dedicated Americans have shown that community services and programs can work to the benefit of all.

Imagine what the next 25 years can hold.

Merill is the CEO of the American Network of Community Options and Resources, based in Alexandria, Virginia.