Today marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This legislation gave equal rights to those with disabilities with respect to employment, transportation, public accommodations, government services, and telecommunications. I was 13 years old when the ADA became law. At that time I was too young to understand the importance of its passage.
I’m not a political activist. In fact, I shy away from politics as much as I can. Especially, today when there is so much that divides us as a nation. Likewise, I have always been a person that has adapted to my environment quite well. Therefore, when I was younger I did not feel impacted too much by having limited access to places and things.
I guess you could say I was used to living in a world that wasn’t made for a person like me. Moreover, for many years I felt I was too “normal” to fit within the disabled world, while being just disabled enough that I could never be totally accepted as “normal.”
As I have gotten older my mobility has decreased somewhat. With this I have come to realize just how important the ADA is for people with disabilities. Looking back it seems odd that a law like this was even necessary. Furthermore, the fact that it was passed just 30 years ago today is baffling. There are still far too many places that are inaccesible to those with disabilities. Likewise, according to recent data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with disabilities are still much less likely to be employed than those who are not disabled.
Working in social services I speak with many who are too disabled to work. Access to services for these individuals is often quite limited. I believe that those with disabilities are still often marginalized. Are those who are able-bodied fearful of those who are different? I believe many are, but I think there is more to the story as well.
People with disabilities need to advocate for themselves. For too long many of us have been silent. I include myself in this group. Relying on “big government” to cure what ails society is not the answer. We live in a time when a majority of politicians are more worried about mudslinging than they are in representing those who elected them. Yes, you can make your voice heard at the ballot box. However, you can also make your voice heard through social media, getting involved with an advocacy group, or work to educate those around you about the daily struggles those with disabilities face.
Living with a disability often means you feel as if you don’t belong. The world was made for those who can walk and talk without any difficulties. Barriers exist in everyday life that don’t exist for those who are “normal.” I wonder where we will be 30 years ago from now?