FLINT (WJRT) - (07/24/15) - A quarter century ago, landmark legislation was passed to prevent discrimination of the disabled.
A gala celebration in Genesee County on Friday marked that historic day back in 1990.
Handicapped signs, meant to help those with disabilities, have become increasingly common in the last quarter-century, but folks at Friday's celebration reminded us there's a lot more work to do.
The Flint Powers High School Campus took center stage Friday as more than 1,000 Mid-Michigan residents joined to celebrate the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 25 years ago.
"We're eating, singing and dancing and everything. I'm just, like, we are in the shade and everything. That's all I'm doing," says Flint resident Keith Gause.
"I'm having a good time. I'm seeing friends and everything. It's good that we're having this for people with disabilities and all," said Suzie Vickerman, from Flint Township.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.
Friday's gala was meant to raise awareness about the strides made and the challenges ahead.
Dignitaries like Lt. Gov. Brian Calley were on hand to support the crowd.
"We've got a long way to go. When we look around the world and how far our country has come, how far our state has come, we know that we've done more than most places, but still, the barriers to independence and self-determined lives exist," Calley said.
Barriers like stereotyping that Mid-Michigan residents hope to see removed.
"It shows that disability people is just as normal as other kinds of people," said Rene Deroce, a Grand Blanc resident.
"So, when the handicapped people come here, they have resources to job opportunities," said Mike Cook, of Burton.
The size of the crowd was seen as another sign of progress.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein was also on hand to show support for the progress over the past quarter century and more.
"So many of the people that are here today would have been living in institutions. They would have been away from society, they would have been away from their communities, they would have been away from their families. And now, if you look at where we are today, you have inclusion," he said.
Yet, there is room for improvement in areas that affect nearly all of us, too.
"Look, at the end of the day, that's just a horrible thing to do. If you aren't disabled and you are using a handicapped spot, I mean, there is just no excuse for that," Bernstein said.
Major sponsors of this event included Landaal Packaging and Meijer.