Twenty years ago today the United States ushered in a new era of opportunity for our citizens with passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This groundbreaking legislation has played a critical role in combating disability discrimination and promoting the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in our society. A global pioneer, the ADA has also inspired adoption of disability rights legislation around the world, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities incorporates the core principles and concepts of the ADA. Today we are proud to join our colleagues across government and civil society in celebrating this 20th anniversary.
Here at the State Department we are making inclusion of persons with disabilities a central element in our policies and practices within the Department and around the globe. In July 2009, the United States signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This past June, we welcomed Judith Heumann as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights; she is working across the Department to develop a comprehensive strategy to promote the rights of all persons with disabilities internationally. We will continue to address the inclusion of disability issues throughout the Department, including through ensuring the accessibility of buildings, communication, and information technology. I also would like to take this opportunity to recognize the invaluable contributions to the work of the Department made by our colleagues with disabilities and the Disability Advisory Group, who demonstrate on a daily basis the importance of disability inclusion.
Expanding opportunity and supporting human rights are among the most important guideposts in our foreign policy. Discrimination against persons with disabilities is not only an injustice, it is a strain on economic development, a limit to democracy, a burden on families, and a cause of social erosion. For these reasons, we at the State Department must remain committed to the vision of the ADA and to the continued removal of barriers, to create a world in which persons with disabilities truly enjoy the dignity and respect that they deserve.