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ABLE and ADA Anniversary

ABLE and ADA Anniversary

This entry will remind us that the landmark Civil Rights legislation known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, continues to have far reaching implications for our nation’s citizens with disabilities.  Even as we prepare to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the ADA later this month, our Tennessee citizens can also now access benefits through ABL E TN, a new program administered by the Tennessee Treasury Department and designed to offer citizens with disabilities a tax-effective way to leverage their earnings and have more funds available for necessary disability expenses.  This is one more manifestation of the effective public policy which can flow from benchmark federal legislation.  There was an authorizing federal statute and subsequently a state law passed in 2014 which established the ABLE TN program.  Without the original ADA mandate from the federal government, we are unlikely to have had the federal ABLE initiative and then the eventual state legislation.

ABLE stands for “Achieving a Better Life Experience” and establishes a mechanism for individuals to save and invest private funds for Qualified Disability Expenses of a Designated Beneficiary.  The program was effective July 1, 2016 and an enrollment application can be submitted by a Designated Beneficiary or their Legal Representative online, via e-mail, fax, or mail.  More complete information on eligibility and program requirements are available at or by phone at (855) 922-5386.  If you want to know more or think you or a loved one may benefit from participation, the Treasury Department staff is ready to assist you.

While there is certainly general acknowledgment that much progress has been made in the 26 years since the passage of the ADA, there is still recognition that full and equal participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of society is still lacking both in the United States and even more so in many other countries.  The Secretary General of the United Nations recently commented that there are more than one billion people living with disabilities worldwide and that the U.N. is committed to inclusivity and accessibility for all persons with disabilities.

Whether viewed from an international, national, state, or local perspective, the effort to move toward a more open and inclusive society remains a priority for the advocacy community and all who care about the civil rights of people with disabilities.  Hardly a week goes by without a national news story detailing institutional mistreatment, exploitation of all kinds, or other wrongdoing by caregivers or others responsible for the health and safety of our citizens with disability.  ADA reminds us of the promise, initiatives like ABLE TN illustrate an important step along the journey, but the future tells us that much work remains to be done before the promise if fulfilled.


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