When we talk about the good things and bad things about the United States, one thing that I am really proud of is how this country works with disabilities. In particular, I’m referring to the Americans with Disability Act (or ADA).
The ADA was national legislation signed into law in 1990 by Pres. George H.W. Bush, and it outlaws discrimination based on a number of physical and mental disabilities, including ones you see on the screen here. [They include deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, missing limbs, mobility impairments, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.] The idea is to empower all citizens to participate in work and civic life as fully as possible.
This issue is particularly dear to me because my mom had multiple sclerosis when I was growing up. Back in those days, we didn’t have curb cuts in the sidewalks, which made it difficult to push her wheelchair across the street. Many buildings didn’t have public elevators, so we’d have to take her wheelchair into freight elevators in the back of the building. Think about the message that sends to people with disabilities: that you’re not welcome here, or you can come in but you have to enter through the back where we load equipment and boxes. Part of this inclusion, for me, centers on the notion of the dignity of all citizens.
[In the video we show] a number of adaptations of our environment that we make today in this country. How many of them do you or your family members take advantage of so you have access to work places, public meetings, or recreation? Imagine the feeling of participation and belonging that these tools have added, not to mention the productivity that we achieve when so many more citizens are included.
Now, the United States isn’t perfect when it comes to dealing with disabilities, but we’re moving in a positive direction. Sometimes we are uncomfortable talking or working with people who have disabilities, but that is something we can overcome. If you have questions about disability in the workplace or community, we’ll provide a list of resources for you on our website. Because around here, we believe everybody belongs.
For my local friends: Disability Advocates of Kent County http://dakc.us
Drop the R-Word: http://www.r-word.org
U.S. federal government: https://www.disability.gov
Autism Center: http://hopenetwork.org/services/behavioral-health/autism/