Celebrating the ADA, Disability Pride, and 10 Years of Wisconsin’s IRIS Program


This month marks several important milestones not only for disability advocacy nationally, but also for TMG by Magellan Health in Wisconsin.

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. This historic piece of civil rights legislation made it illegal to discriminate against someone because of a disability. The ADA has paved the way for people with disabilities to have access to the same opportunities that everyone else has.

This means that public transportation and public accommodations such as schools, restaurants, stores, clinics and theaters must accommodate people who use mobility aids, and must be accessible to those with audio or visual impairments or other types of physical disabilities. It means that children with an intellectual disability can receive a public education with their peers. And, it means that adults with disabilities can ask their employer for reasonable accommodations so that they can perform their job duties and remain active in the workforce. We know that a more inclusive world is a better world, and that’s why we celebrate the progress that’s happened over the nearly 30 years since the signing of the ADA.

We also celebrate Disability Pride in honor of the 40.7 million Americans[i] who have a disability and represent 12.8 percent of the U.S. population. They have valued roles in our communities as artists, advocates, entrepreneurs, athletes, co-workers, neighbors, and friends. Yet, not everyone looks beyond a person’s disability to recognize their ability and talents, and all too often people with disabilities can be invisible to society. That’s why Disability Pride parades and festivals are so important.

The first Disability Pride parades took place in Boston in the early 1990s. Although those initial parades stopped after the death of the lead organizer, Diana Viets, the city of Chicago held its very first Disability Pride Parade on July 18, 2004. Since then, other cities across the country – including New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and, Madison, Wisconsin – have held their own Disability Pride events, with many happening during July to commemorate the signing of the ADA. The focus at these festive events is inclusion and fun, and, to quote Chicago’s Disability Pride webpage, “to promote the belief that disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity.” If you have the opportunity, it’s great to take part in one of these empowering and fun events as TMG by Magellan Health staff have done in Madison.

Finally, this month also marks the 10-year anniversary of Wisconsin’s IRIS program, and our partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and other stakeholders since the program began. On July 1, 2008, the state’s fully self-directed Medicaid long-term care waiver, called IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct), was created to give those who wanted more control and choice in long-term supports and services (LTSS) the chance to self-direct those services. Since then, the state has made the IRIS program available and we have steadily expanded our IRIS Consultant Agency and Self-Directed Personal Care Oversight Agency services to all 72 Wisconsin counties.

Wisconsin is regarded as a leader in self-directed services through the IRIS program. Recently, Applied Self-Direction and AARP published an informative report entitled, Taking it to the Next Level: Using Innovative Strategies to Expand Options for Self-Direction. The report highlights Wisconsin as one of the top four states for innovation in self-direction, along with Texas, Iowa and Florida. TMG is proud to be the original IRIS Consultant Agency and the only IRIS Self-Directed Personal Care Oversight Agency in Wisconsin, and we feel honored to support over 14,500 of the 17,000-plus people enrolled in the IRIS program.

For all these reasons – the anniversary of the ADA, Disability Pride events and the innovative IRIS program – July is indeed a month to celebrate progress in disability advocacy and policy!

[i] United States Census Bureau: American Fact Finder – Disability Characteristic 2016 American Community Survey

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