On July 26, 2015 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turns 25! That’s 25 years since then President George H.W. Bush signed the act that serves to protect the rights of people living with various disabilities in America in 1990. The ADA Amendments Act was signed in 2008 further granting more protections to people with disabilities. These protections are similar to the ones that protect against discrimination based on race, sex, religion, etc. when it comes to areas such as employment, access to businesses, transportation, services, etc.
For example, it is because of the ADA and the ADAA that people like me are able to ride public transportation, go food shopping or even just enjoy a nice restaurant!
We celebrate 25 years of progress, but there is still so much more to be done. A government act and regulation cannot change attitudes. Until society as a whole begins to see people with disabilities as just another member of society, and not the “other” then even the protections afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act will go ignored. It is disheartening that many stores still see the ADA compliant fitting rooms as a storage closet, or able-bodied peers choose to bypass 3-4 empty bathroom stalls to use the only ADA compliant one available, or even restaurants that insist on using mainly high top tables with just a few lower tables as furniture.
Just recently, NYC hosted the first ever Disability Pride Parade to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA. Thousands of people with disabilities and supporters took to the streets of NY to celebrate the strides made in the last 25 years and bring awareness to the progress yet to made. One thing of the many that needs improvement? The incredibly high unemployment rate. See, the ADA can’t make someone hire you, it just makes it a law that the hiring manager must give you a fair shot at getting the job (i.e. at least an interview) and assuring the employer makes reasonable accommodations. But you have to get the job first!
One attendee of the parade noted some of the growing pains this year. For one, it appeared to be poorly organized in that streets weren’t blocked off properly so the participants had to stop at lights for traffic or wait in the sun just for it to start. I’m not sure this is wholly a matter of poor organizing than it is a city that may not have fully backed the parade. Gay Pride doesn’t have this problem, nor does the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (Irish Pride), or others. It is a lesson learned for next year. I for would love to see something like this in Long Beach, CA. – a city that brags about being on the cutting edge of everything, a trendsetter. One step at a time.
I signed the pledge to Commit to Recommit for the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I commit to spreading disability awareness, advocating for disability rights and doing whatever I can to be a proponent of change. Will you?