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Terri Mauro

Americans With Disabilities Act Turns 21

By July 26, 2011

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Americans With Disabilities ActToday is the 21st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Are you happy for the changes it's brought, or sad that so many people still don't seem to get it? Maybe a little of both.

Sometimes I feel optimistic about opportunities for Americans with disabilities. Many kids with disabilities are going to college now who at one time would never have had that chance, my own daughter included. I see school inclusion making inroads, slower than we'd like but so much further along than when my daughter was clumsily mainstreamed. I see businesses making an effort to include people with disabilities in their workforces, including, possibly, my son in a part-time job next year. There was a time, not really all that long ago, when kids like mine would have had little chance at any sort of normal life; I'm incredibly grateful to disability law and special-education law and the good will of so many people for making that change.

And then there are those other times. When it seems like every time you go browsing for news there's some slight to people with disabilities, someone denied access for a service dog, forcibly restrained at school, denied a place to live in the community, blocked from an accessible parking space, judged as not fully alive, disrespected for being different, rejected for having needs that others see as inconvenient. Some of the battles are small and seemingly trivial, some are matters of life and death, but all are indicative of a culture that suspects some disabilities aren't real while finding real disabilities distasteful.

Still, we persevere. We celebrate progress. We fight for the rights of our children. And we realize that often, the bad stories are still a sign of how far we've come and how much our expectations have changed. Today's a day for looking with hope to the future. Happy birthday, ADA.

If you haven't yet signed on to my We Expect Respect manifesto, this might be a good day to do it, or to read over the responses left by others. Have an idea of an advocacy effort that deserves our attention? Share it on the forum. For more on ADA and disability rights, visit the pages I highlighted as Sites of the Day today and read these articles from around the site:

Photo by Rayman/Getty Images

July 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm
(1) Glenn says:

When this act became law, I was working as a TV reporter. On election day, I borrowed a wheelchair, sat in it, and did a story on what it would be like to go vote. There were few sidewalk ramps, heavy doors were impossible to open, and it was tough navigating narrow spaces. Hopefully in these years since, it’s become easier — though I’m sure many obstacles remain.

November 6, 2012 at 3:54 am
(2) Paula says:

Things have not gotten better in many regards for disabled people, they’ve gotten worse in many ways.

So many times, especially in the state of Connecticut, who calls itself the Constitution State, disabled people not only get their civil rights violated many times to the point their lives are a living nightmare, but they are also getting their lives put in danger, on nearly a constant basis.
There’s a law in the state of Connecticut which says, you must not allow your own dog to run free off a leash, if it’s not on your own property.
However, there’s countless irresponsible dog owners in Connecticut who do so, and the state just lets them get away with it!

How does a disabled safely walk their own dog in an area, where so many vicious dogs are constantly running loose & even leave their yards & come attack their dog?
This happens many many times in the Hartford County area, especially East Hartford.
That town has to be one of the most dangerous & unsafe towns to even think to walk a dog, especially if you’re disabled.
And now they also insist you MUST pick up your dog’s feces EVERY time it goes to the bathroom, but yet, how do you do so SAFELY if people are allowing aggressive dogs like Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and even Pitbulls to run loose in their yard, even if that same owner has a fully fenced yard in the back, but refuses to put their dog back there?

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