Alyssa Milano: We should celebrate the anniversary of the ADA by protecting it, not tearing it down

Alyssa Milano: We should celebrate the anniversary of the ADA by protecting it, not tearing it down
© Greg Nash

Earlier this year, I told my truth about my personal struggles with having a mental illness.

On the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I’m opening up again to ask that we protect our progress—and fight back against efforts to roll back the clock on critical protections that millions of Americans across the country rely on.

When the ADA became law, it sent a message to Americans that disability discrimination is against our core values.

The ADA also ensured that Americans with both visible and invisible disabilities were afforded access in every aspect of public life, which fundamentally changed the way Americans with disabilities were treated in our workplaces and communities — ensuring that every American was closer to being treated fairly in our country.

The 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) further solidified these protections by signing into law every American’s right, and ability, to access treatment, regardless of socioeconomic class or medical history.

What I know is that the ADA and ACA have changed and saved the lives of millions of Americans, particularly those with pre-existing conditions -- but the fight certainly continues. There are ongoing strides to combat forms of discrimination against those with mental illness, ensuring that comprehensive protections for persons with special needs are codified into our laws and embedded into our very way of life.

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When I opened up about my struggles with my general anxiety disorder (GAD), I was fortunate enough to have had the ability to receive the treatment I needed. I was also fortunate enough to be in a position where I wouldn’t face discrimination for speaking out — and I also knew I could afford the treatment I needed. But I realize that’s not the story of everyday Americans, which is why I believe it is essential to use my platform to speak out on these important issues impacting lives across the country

 

Although the ADA has made it illegal for employers to discriminate based on mental illness, too many Americans with disabilities find themselves in jobs that provide fewer opportunities for professional and financial advancement. Why? Because to this day, too many employers still believe the myth that a disability impacts the quality of the work someone can do.

And although the Affordable Care Act ensured that insurance companies can’t enact lifetime caps on health care coverage, protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions are at risk of being gutted by the Trump Administration, thanks to ongoing Republican efforts to undermine and repeal the Affordable Care Act. This puts the care of 130 million Americans — many of them disabled — at risk.

I want to make one thing clear: my mental illness does not make me a lesser citizen of this country — and that is also true for every person with special needs in this country. We need our elected officials to work to uphold the principles that were set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act, not try to undo the progress we have made.

That includes making sure that bills that vow to strip protections in the ADA and legalize discrimination against millions of Americans — such as H.R. 620, which Republicans pushed through the House earlier this year — don’t become law.

I am reminded every single day of the strength and dignity that members of the disability community exhibit, and on the anniversary of the ADA it’s important that we reflect on the progress we’ve made — but it’s also important that we continue fight against this discrimination, and call out attempts to undermine our health care.

Alyssa Milano is an actor, activist and a Co-Chair of the Health Care Voter campaign.