July 26 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden said those who experience long-term health problems from COVID-19 could qualify as having a disability Monday during remarks marking the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Biden called the ADA "a triumph of American values" and said it should be applied to Americans managing the long-term effects of the novel coronavirus.
"Today, finally, I am proud to announce a new effort -- the first of its kind to help Americans grappling with long-term effects of COVID-19 that doctors called 'long COVID,'" Biden said.
Millions across the world have been diagnosed with "long COVID," or symptoms that persist for up to nine months following initial recovery, research suggests.
Biden said the effects of the extended symptoms meet the definition of a disability.
"Many Americans who seemingly recovered from the virus still face lingering challenges like breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue," he said. "These conditions can sometimes rise to the level of a disability. So we are bringing agencies together to make sure Americans with long COVID who have a disability have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law which includes accommodations and services in the workplace and school and our healthcare system."
"For more than 60 million Americans living with disabilities the ADA is so much more than a law, it is a source of opportunity, participation, independent living and respect and dignity, a bulwark against discrimination and a path to Independence," Biden said.
Biden himself co-sponsored the legislation as a senator in 1990.
He called on his memory of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who used sign language on the floor of Congress to communicate with his brother after calling for a vote on the ADA.
"Some of the same folks that fought so hard of this landmark legislation are with us today," Biden said.
The ADA provides protections for the disabled in many avenues of life to make "reasonable accommodations" for them.
"[W]e celebrate the inclusion and access promoted by the landmark civil rights law for disabled Americans," the White House said in a statement.
The president said the law closed the gap between the disabled and the rest of society by providing more opportunity.
In particular the law provided protections for the disabled in employment, transportation and making communities more friendly and functional.
"Many Americans have never lived in a world without the ADA ... an employer could refuse to hire you because of your disability," Biden said.
The ADA was signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
"On that day America became better because an accessible America is a better America," Harris said.
Harris thanked activists, advocates and policymakers involved in passage of the bill, including Biden.
"Every day in every community the lives of Americans are better because of the work you all did," Harris said. When people ride a bus because it has a lift, when they can enter a building because it has a ramp, when they can watch a movie because it has closed captions," Harris said.
Harris said while a lot has been done there is still more to accomplish.
In particular, she focused on voting problems the disabled still face.
"This is a civil rights fight, this is about equity," Harris said.
Harris further called on the investment in home-based and community services for the disabled.
The event also featured Tyree Brown, a quadriplegic who is an advocate for the disabled.
She is a 26-year-old artist who was injured in a car accident.
"It is the ADA that has paved the way for me," Smith said in her remarks introducing Biden.