Independence is for everyone

By Douglas J. Usiak,  June 24, 2022

As our relatively young nation has had a tumultuous history, we can list off a number of different “independence” days that we continue to observe:

— July 4, 1776, the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence by our Founding Fathers, which led to the hard-fought Revolutionary War to free the colonies from the yoke of the British Empire.

— June 19, 1865, now celebrated as Juneteenth National Independence Day, the date the last of the enslaved African Americans in southern Texas were finally brought the word of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed more than two years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln. Freeing the slaves in those areas in rebellion against the Union helped lead to the end of the U.S. Civil War.

— July 26, 1990, the day that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed by then-President George Herbert Walker Bush. Why was this so important? Its provisions barred discrimination in employment, in programs by state and local governments, in services by places of public accommodation (stores, restaurants, hotels, theaters, salons, etc.) and could subject the violators to legal penalties. Plus, there were additional provisions for accessible public transportation, and telephone communication by hearing impaired individuals. Its ultimate consequence was eliminating barriers and increasing the independence and full integration of people with disabilities into our society, enabling them to access goods, services, and government programs, attain competitive work, and become tax-paying citizens. The ADA’s passage was the single biggest event in over 100 years of advocacy to provide a “level playing field” for individuals with impairments.

If anything was a good reason to celebrate, I’d say this is!

You are invited to a Disability Pride Celebration of the ADA on Sunday, July 24th, at Canalside Buffalo, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The celebration is organized by Independent Living of Niagara County (ILNC) along with its sister agencies in the Western New York Independent Living Family and many other community organizations. With free admission to the Disability Pride tent and outside, you will be able to enjoy free food, participate in adaptive water sports, and learn more about the services of ILNC and the other sponsoring organizations. We anticipate more than 400 participants, including consumers, their families, and friends, plus frequent Canalside visitors.

More exciting event details are being put in place; for information, watch our Facebook page,, or call Hayley at 716-284-4131, extension 146.

Thank you for helping us celebrate and enjoy a delightful summer!

Douglas J. Usiak is the chief executive officer of Independent Living of Niagara County. Independent Living empowers individuals with disabilities to gain the information and resources needed to improve their quality of life and participate in society on an equal basis. For more information about ILNC's services and programs, call 716-284-4131, extension 200.