Selma Blair visited the White House to help celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act

Selma Blair was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) five years ago. I say “finally” because she only got the proper diagnosis after being in pain for most of her life, and spending ten years doggedly seeking an answer. On Monday Selma was invited to speak at the White House to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act and the 33rd of its descendant, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Escorted on the arm of President Joe Biden — who fought for both bills in Congress as a senator — and with the assistance of a cane and her support dog Scout, Selma spoke with candor about how both laws have helped her to be “a proud disabled woman.” I’m not crying, you are.

Blair told a crowd of advocates attending the ceremony, “Although I’d had symptoms since the age of 7, it took a lifetime of self-advocacy to finally lead me to a diagnosis at age 46, after living most of my life in pain and self-doubt.”

She said Judy Heumann, a renowned activist who helped secure passage of the legislation protecting the rights of disabled people being celebrated Monday and who died in March at age 75, “Taught me my worth.”

“The push towards equity continues,” Blair said. “Our laws and policies must reflect that our disabled lives are not of lesser value.”

Biden also hailed Heumann, noting that, “History shows it’s often not the people in power, but the power of the people that move the country forward.”

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prevents discrimination against disabled people on everything from employment to parking to voting.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Biden noted both bills received bipartisan support when clearing Congress.

“These laws are a source of opportunity, meaningful inclusion, participation, respect, and, as my dad would say, the most important of all, dignity,” Biden said. “Be treated with dignity. Ensuring that the American dream is for all of us, not just for some of us.”

[From AP News]

Selma looked like a BOSS. Everything about her look is goals for me: the white-blonde slicked-back hair, the Chanel-esque Carolina Herrera suit with impossible-to-miss embellishments, a faithful dog companion, what looks like a lucite cane. It’s all working, and it’s all fabulous. The only area I’ll have to tap out on are the heels. I look like a baby giraffe taking her first steps in those things.

So a breakdown of her look may seem superficial, but I think it makes a deeper impact too. Everything she (and Biden) spoke about had to do with equity, dignity, and worth. With that outfit and the way she carried herself, Selma’s whole presence commanded respect and attention. So much respect, in fact, that when Biden bent down to give Scout a scritch (who was napping at Biden’s feet), when Selma gave Scout a gentle direction it was Biden who responded by standing up straight again. Good boy, Joe! And it made me so, so happy that she and Biden both honored Judy Heumann, who was a great light that went out this year. Those acts would not exist today without her, as she was “the mother” of the disability rights movement in America.

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photos credit: Chris Kleponis/CNP/, Getty and via Instagram

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12 Responses to “Selma Blair visited the White House to help celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act”

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  1. Amy says:

    I know Biden isn’t perfect or a perfect candidate. But I just can’t help thinking how fortunate we are to have a POTUS who welcomes and celebrates people with disabilities and these milestones, rather than a POTUS who mocks those with disabilities and could not care less about any of these issues.
    And agree she looks incredible. What a shero Selma Blair is!

  2. CommentingBunny says:

    “So a breakdown of her look may seem superficial…”

    We talk fashion on most of the posts here. I actually think it would be othering if we neglected to note how fierce she looks just because she’s a woman with a disability. She looks fantastic!

    I’m in awe of her self-advocacy. It sucks that she had to fight so hard. Anf now she has enough in the tank to keep fighting for herself *and* others? She is incredible.

  3. Lightpurple says:

    Happy for Selma.

    Judy Heumann’s name & image should be on our buildings and stamps and money.

    For more information about this amazing Warrior Godess, watch the documentary Crip Camp, available on Netflix. Honored to have met her.

  4. J.ferber says:

    I feel so bad for Selma Blair and Christina Applegate. This disease sucks.

    • angela says:

      While everyone certainly has the right to tell their own story, I feel a little differently about Selma’s advocacy. I have had occurring remitting MS for 10 years and after a rough first couple years, I have been stable for 8 years. The med I am on works very well for me, and there are so many good meds for MS now that most people diagnosed in the last 10 years do very very well. In fact, because of the advances in medicine, most neurologists will now tell you that MS (the type I have) is almost heading into “conquered disease” territory once patients get on a med that works for them. I continue to work full time at a high level professional job, I am raising four kids, and I am a fitness buff. This advocacy creates a stigma for us regular folks who live with MS and want to continue to work. Instead of focusing always on the devastation of the disease, I would like more focus on the fact that the disease can be well managed. Because of the disease’s stigma, most of us with MS just don’t feel comfortable talking about the disease at all or acknowledging we have it because we don’t want people to think that we won’t be able to continue to function at a high level. Again, she is welcome to tell her story, everyone has that right, but I just wanted to point out what many of us in the MS community find a little difficult about it.

      • BeanieBean says:

        While I don’t have MS, I have CMT, and I too feel disinclined to tell people at work about it. Nobody needs to know. I sort of got forced into it due to a change in work places & a misguided trust in my new supervisor; I got shoved out of that job–thankfully got placed in another job in another state through the Reasonable Accommodation of Last Resort process (which is a joke, I just got super lucky at the last possible moment)–and have been working through the EEO complaint process. I’ve got a judge assigned to my case now, just waiting on a hearing date. That’s two-plus years now.
        I’ve probably rambled on way past your point, but in some ways I get it. You are you, not your ‘condition’.

        And Selma’s got some great cane game! One of these days I’m going to get a lucite one, those are so cool. Mine is bamboo & I think it’s pretty cool, too.

      • Ms petit says:

        My husband has secondary progressive MS, while I am very happy for you that it has been manageable allowing for you to a live a full happy life that is not the experience of all people with MS. My husband cannot work anymore and while we live in a community that prioritizes disability access, it’s still difficult for him to go places. Please don’t minimize everyone’s varying experience by your use of “most of us”, you are not speaking for many people with MS

  5. Abby says:

    I am so glad this event happened at the White House. Highlighting issues like this is really important. And yes superficially she looked amazing!

  6. BeanieBean says:

    Well, I’m still employed–albeit in a different field–due to the ADA, so thanks for that Congress! However, the EEO process as developed by federal agencies is created to protect the agencies, not the employees. They still haven’t fully embraced the concept of hiring & keeping & developing people with disabilities. There’s a long way to go yet, so I’m grateful for this kind of exposure.

  7. Anon says:

    I am currently being bullied and abused and railroaded out of my job in a joke of an ADA process at a major employer. It’s ridiculous. I have performed at a very high level with rave reviews, but then had no choice but to ask for reasonable accommodations and they’ve been retaliating since. It’s been a nightmare. They’re trying to make stuff up and accusing me of performance issues faster than I can even respond. I don’t know how I’m going to survive it. I finally found a lawyer and the EEOC process will take forever and if I sue I probably won’t be hirable again bc people won’t bother to look into the details and it will take so long to resolve. It’s an utter nightmare and I’m totally being discriminated against. I’m in multiple protected classes. The ADA is good, but I’d like to see employers especially practice it in good faith better. Please treat people kindly folks! And disabled does not mean unable, we just might need to do something a different way or some adjustments!

    • BeanieBean says:

      Hang in there, @Anon. Your situation echoes mine in a lot of ways. I was so very nervous & anxious about the possibility of losing my job & I truly believe the ONLY way I managed to hang on long enough was because I hired some great lawyers. I was also going through some health issues–rising blood pressure & then surprise! an aortic aneurysm right about the time that 90day clock for the RALR was about to run out. Good doctors & good lawyers got me to where I am today. That and taking some mindfulness based stress reduction classes through work (they couldn’t take that from me).