As the HKI organization highlights, the name Helen Keller is known around the world as a symbol of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Yet, she was much more than a symbol. She was a woman of luminous intelligence, high ambition and great accomplishment who devoted her life to helping others. Ms. Keller’s advocacy, along with countless others, moved forward the disability rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Not only does 2015 mark the centennial celebration for Helen Keller International, but another important anniversary for us in the United States. This July 26th marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act — one of the most comprehensive civil rights bills in the history of our country.
This legislation, passed by our Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government programs, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. According to recent survey data, approximately 54 million Americans have a disability. Nearly 1 billion people are living with disabilities worldwide, and the struggle for disability rights still continues through much of the world.
The focus of Helen Keller International’s mission is a testament to what they have been able to accomplish over the last 100 years. Their mission is to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. This is critical work, especially here in Côte d’Ivoire. The United States Agency for International Development — USAID — has partnered with HKI here in Côte d’Ivoire to promote better nutrition in the past. I’m happy to see that HKI has just recently announced a partnership with USAID to combat neglected tropical diseases in Africa. I am hopeful that we will see similar programs soon here in Côte d’Ivoire.
So, in conclusion, let me thank all of you for the work that you’ve done here and around the world to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. I look forward to seeing what you can accomplish in the years ahead.
Thank you very much.