Message from the CEO

Browse a collection of messages from Chicago Lighthouse President and CEO Dr. Janet Szlyk on what is happening around The Lighthouse.

Celebrating 25 Years of ADA

(from The Beam, Summer 2015 | Volume 15, Number 1)

Dear Friends,

Twenty-five years ago this month, President George H.W. Bush helped transform American society by signing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). By guaranteeing equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, governmental services and telecommunications, this landmark legislation has broken down barriers and provided opportunities previously closed to millions of Americans.

Thanks to the ADA, for example, big city transit systems like the CTA have become much more accessible with the installation of wide doors on trains and buses to accommodate people in wheelchairs and sound systems to announce stops for those who are visually impaired. Furthermore, restaurants, stores and other public accommodations have taken steps to ensure that individuals who are disabled are able to fully take advantage of the programs and/or services they offer.

Despite these considerable advances, much more needs to be done to assure that people with disabilities have the same access to opportunity that other Americans enjoy.

The major stumbling block remains a stubbornly high unemployment rate. For example, seven out of 10 people who are blind or visually impaired lack a job. Employers need to make a much stronger commitment in this area. One answer is to promote partnerships between social service organizations who work with people with disabilities, government and the private sector.

At The Chicago Lighthouse, we have partnered with the Illinois Tollway and the University of Illinois at Chicago to launch a state-of-the-art call center, which has furnished employment to more than 300 individuals, more than half of whom are blind, visually impaired, have other disabilities or are Veterans.

Another issue hindering the full acceptance of people with disabilities in our society is attitudinal. Unfortunately, negative attitudes and stereotypes abound and governmental action can only go so far to change them.

It helps to eliminate these stereotypes at a young age. At The Lighthouse, our new Preschool for All is doing just that by bringing together children who are both sighted and visually impaired. In this blended environment, they are learning mutual respect and understanding at a young age. We would encourage that similar efforts be undertaken. We also ask that the worlds of sports, entertainment, the arts and other fields of human endeavor do more to showcase the talents and amazing accomplishments of people with disabilities.

Happy 25th Birthday, ADA! Let’s celebrate by reaffirming our commitment to fostering a more just and equitable society as the original law envisioned!

Janet P. Szlyk, Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer

Low Vision Research Laboratory

Research & Publications by Dr. Szlyk

Interviews with Dr. Szlyk

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