Today 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:
- What Is the Americans With Disabilities Act?
- Disability Rights Resources
- Special-Needs Advocacy: Seven Ways to Get Involved
- Books on Disability Rights and Community Living
- Americans With Disabilities Act at 20
- State of the Art: Exhibit for ADA's 20th Anniversary
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