WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush praised the 11-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act on Saturday for making the United States ``a stronger, more productive nation'' by providing disabled people greater access to the functions of everyday life.
Bush, in his weekly radio address, said the ADA _ signed into law by his father, former President Bush, during the same week in 1991 _ gave disabled people more options in choosing a home, using public transportation, even working and traveling.
``This has made our country a fairer society, more considerate and welcoming to all our citizens,'' Bush said. ``As people with disabilities find more opportunities to use their gifts and talents, we also become a stronger, more productive nation. Some barriers remain, however, and as long as they stand, our work is unfinished.''
Bush instructed Attorney General John Ashcroft and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to enforce provisions of the law barring unjustifiable institutionalization of the mentally disabled.
He also called on Congress to ``fulfill the promise of ADA'' and provide funding for his New Freedom Initiative. That program seeks to improve transportation for disabled workers, encourage private companies to develop technologies to help them do their jobs, and assist community groups, civic organizations and houses of worship in improving handicapped access to their facilities.
``Many of these groups are trying their best to meet the requirements of ADA, and we will help them,'' the president said. He also pledged to ensure that disabled Americans ``are not arbitrarily isolated or kept apart'' from the mainstream.
``During the last 11 years, we have opened the doors of opportunity to millions of people with disabilities,'' Bush said. ``And, together, we can ensure that everyone with a disability enjoys the respect that all citizens deserve.''