We didn’t want this important date in history to pass by without celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law.
First for some context, just in case you’re not familiar with the ADA. The ADA National Network provides these basics on their website:
“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.”
While legally the ADA “guarantees equal opportunity” in a variety of arenas, it is clear that in practice opportunities for people with disabilities are often far less than equal. For example, take a look at our post about Tony Award winner Ali Stroker that we from last month. According to the Huffington Post, Stroker commented, “This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena — you are.” But how do you suppose kids who have disabilities might have felt when they found out that the event organizers did not figure out a way to make the stage accessible for Stroker, meaning she had to watch the entire show from backstage, after being given a pretense for her needing to be backstage, just so she could accept her award onstage? Stroker was gracious about the situation, but told the New York Times that she “had a dream that maybe there could be a ramp built.” In fact, there WAS a ramp built backstage, so she could watch from the wings, but since there was no ramp to allow access from the seating area to the stage, she reported that “I had a seat in the front, but the way the night worked out, I never got to my seat.”
However the events leading up to the Tony Awards show played out, in the end the situation just got weird. It remains unclear why, if a ramp could be constructed for backstage access, the logistics could not have been worked out to ensure accessibility from the front of the theater.
As we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we must also recognize that legislation means nothing if the provisions are not implemented and, more importantly, if we all do not uphold the values behind the legislation. It is a rare piece of legislation that can feasibly cover every possible situation it is intended to address, but people--every one of us--can help collaborate, support, advocate, and demand that the public places we access are accessible to all. Change can happen, and it can happen one person at a time. You can make a commitment to support accessibility and Take the Pledge to #StopMakingItWeird.