On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. People have asked me over the years what this means to me, yet the answer is more complex than it appears. The struggle for Disability rights are much greater than what the ADA covers with many events prior and after its passage – shaping the access to the goal of an “even-playing field” for people with disabilities versus able-bodied people in society.
The greatest paradox of disability is it can happen to anyone at anytime regardless of race, sex, age, economic class, religion, or any other demographic group; however, discussing disability is truly difficult with many able-bodied people not allowing themselves to understand the common dream of people with all types of disabilities – to live their life freely integrated in society without barriers. Furthermore, people with disabilities want the opportunity “to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness” like everyone else; however, seeing people with disabilities often causes others to feel pity, fear of offending, believing people with disabilities are inferior humans or – even worse – deserving of their situation.
Those of us with disabilities, who seek to live freely in an integrated society, find ourselves trying to prove ourselves over and over again that we can impact society equally as our able-bodied counter-parts. Other people with disabilities struggle to try to integrate because the cost of basic needs prevents them from seeing a path forward to living independently or they believe their old, and not really disabled. Will discuss this further in later posts on how this misconception still needs to evolve.
Focusing back to the impacts of the ADA itself is quite extraordinary though, for with its passage all people with disabilities were given access to public places by law – opening the door for an integrated life without simply the goodwill of others or government funded programs. Timing personally for me was fortunate only 4 years after my accident allowing me to become truly a part of the independent living movement, which I’m ever thankful for daily.