A Message from Theo Braddy: Unfinished Work

Greetings once again,

This is Theo Braddy, the Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living. My message today is called Unfinished Work.

Not long ago, a colleague approached me requesting insight regarding the 33rd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, she sought a concise statement summarizing its significance. Here’s my response:

“The ADA is a giant step in the right direction for people with all types of disabilities to be included based on the elimination of physical barriers and discrimination; however, there is still much work to do to eliminate attitudinal barriers.”

My response reflects the ADA’s unfinished work.

During some of my lectures, I often share a sentiment: In my lifetime, I might see most of the physical barriers removed in society that prevent people with disabilities from full participation. But what I won’t see for sure is the attitudinal barriers eliminated that society has regarding people living with disabilities. Attitudes are much harder to change. This, my friend, is unfinished work!

Recently, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) convened its annual conference. Surprisingly, over 500 attendees from across the nation attended in person, despite the ongoing challenges posed by COVID. Their presence was a testament to their eagerness to empower themselves through workshops and networking. The rally and march overflowed with energy and enthusiasm. The event concluded with a thunderous call to action: We have unfinished work.

NCIL has been fortunate to forge partnerships with exceptional corporate sponsors. While their names won’t be listed here, I encourage you to visit our website and explore these alliances. Some corporations have been instrumental in driving initiatives championing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. However, further strides in this direction are imperative—these corporations have unfinished work.

As the newly appointed Executive Director of NCIL, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with numerous federal agencies. Encouragingly, leadership within these agencies is progressively improving. Nonetheless, we grapple with a crucial concept: any endeavor designed to benefit diverse individuals with disabilities must incorporate the perspectives of these individuals from inception. We cannot afford to be an afterthought. Neglecting this vital involvement risks lives and leaves those needing essential services neglected. Moreover, engagement with disability-led organizations is paramount. You are getting it now – federal agencies have unfinished work!

These are just a few things that come to mind as we celebrate again this landmark legislation called the Americans with Disabilities Act. Undoubtedly, we are a better people with ADA and other laws governing how people with disabilities live in America.

Recently, I engaged in an interview with two courageous young men from Germany—one with a disability, the other without. These brave individuals are embarking on a global journey, documenting interactions with people with disabilities from diverse countries. Their inspiring endeavor, captured on film, exposes fascinating stories. Feel free to contribute to their cause: https://bit.ly/3Qu44tm. They are doing this on money raised and it entirely depends on donations. I told them during the interview how much courage it takes to do what they are doing but guess what — they, too, have unfinished work! Good luck, Alex and Lovis.

I write all this not just pointing the finger outward but also inward. NCIL still needs to do all it can do.

As executive director, I am committed, along with the staff, board of directors, and many volunteers to doing the work.

Stay tuned, NCIL has unfinished work!

Be well,

This is Theo Braddy, Executive Director, National Council on Independent Living

Theo Braddy Headshot - A black man with a bald head, a salt and pepper full beard wearing eyeglasses, sitting in a wheelchair wearing an orange, blue, and white plaid dress shirt.

About NCIL

NCIL is the longest-running national cross-disability grassroots organization, driven by and dedicated to people with disabilities. Since its founding in 1982, NCIL has represented thousands of organizations and individuals, advocating tirelessly for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities across the United States.

Image: Image: Theo Braddy Headshot – A black man with a bald head, a salt and pepper full beard wearing eyeglasses, sitting in a wheelchair wearing an orange, blue, and white plaid dress shirt.