Twenty-five years. Not all that long ago, but access has really improved in many ways for the 19% of us who have disabilities because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is still a work in progress and involves much negotiating for access in many situations. But, perhaps, you’re someone who’s benefitted over the years from some of the following accommodations:
- Assistance animals; more people know laws
- Free I-bill reader and Eyenote app for the blind so those with vision loss can differentiate denominations of U.S. paper currency
- Schneider Family Book awards for children’s books with disability content are receiving more entries every year showing mainstream interest in disability and diversity
- Checkers, Scrabble or other accessible board games are more widely available
- Ramps are more common although not universal like to pulpits in churches
- Signs about hearing loops are starting to appear
- Interpreters and captioners are at work in more places like medical appointments, school graduations, etc.
- Playground equipment usable by kids with mobility impairments is more common
- Large print programs at worship services and public events are more common
- Accessible medical devices such as blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, glucose meters, and insulin pumps are now available
- Print/braille books are sometimes available at public libraries for blind parents and sighted kids or vice versa to read together
- Buses that have access for wheelchair users and some taxis are normally available
- Voting machines with audio capabilities are now in use so blind people can vote independently
- Numerous cell phones, including iPhones, are accessible for the blind or visually impaired as well as iPads and other electronic devices
- Local sources of gizmos from Independent Living and Aging and Disability Resource Centers are around so newly disabled can try before they buy
- Powered carts with baskets to ride at grocery stores
- Hearing assistance devices and Captioning devices provided in movie theaters
- Occasional audio descriptions provided in theaters and on television
- Captioned and/or audio described movies available at libraries
- Audio and touch-tours of museums are more common
- Electronic access for blind to websites, newspapers, email, etc.
- Occasional Braille menus, bank statements, greeting cards, utility bills, etc. are not uncommon; just ask for them
- Reasonable accommodations so jobs are accessible and, if they aren’t, job candidates have leverage with the ADA to correct the situation
- Electric doors are common which helps those in wheelchairs
Those of you who advocate for access for yourself, friends, family and the rest of the 19% of us who need it will make the next 25 years of implementation of the ADA even better. Consider doing the following in your community to celebrate and continue raising awareness. Celebrating might include:
- Arranging city or county board resolutions in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA
- Helping arrange a display of adaptive equipment at a local library or museum
- Offering to Braille messages at a celebration event
- Contacting your local news outlet with a story idea about how the ADA has benefitted you, a friend or family member, etc.
- Get involved with a state or local organization for those with disabilities
- Offer to speak at a local school (middle school, high school or community college) about the ADA and people with disabilities.
When people think of the ADA, they tend to think of ramps and curb cuts. Let’s help them realize there is a lot more to celebrate! Let’s give it all we’ve got by way of celebrating and thanking those who made these improvements possible, while reminding everyone that as things change there will always be a lot more to do.
Katherine Schneider, Ph.D.
Senior Psychologist, Emerita
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author of Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities and a children’s book Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold Blog: http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com