This July marks the 30-year anniversary of the signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). While current conditions may not allow for the massive parades and gatherings that were planned for this summer, AMS Vans, along with the disability community, still proudly celebrates three decades of the passing of legislation that has made our world much more accessible.
Basics of the ADA
President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990, after decades of dedication and advocacy by people with disabilities (PWDs) and their allies nationwide. According to dol.gov, the ADA “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services.”
Before the ADA, it was extremely uncommon, and in most cases unimaginable, to see modifications or original design in public areas that accommodated people with disabilities. Things we take for granted today like curb cuts, electric door openers, wheelchair lifts on buses, and accessible bathroom stalls weren’t there yet. So, while versions of personal-use wheelchair accessible vehicles had been available for some time, chances are the destination wouldn’t be accessible when you got there.
Did you know? An estimated nearly 57 million people in the U.S. alone have a disability and around 30 million of those have difficulty walking or standing. Over 3.5 million use a wheelchair for mobility. That’s a lot of people the ADA protects!
Over the years, amendments to the ADA have been made, including better clarity to the definition of disability, and added protections for telecommunications and other mandatory accessible features, like swimming pool lifts. As PWDs achieved increased access to the world, they naturally became more visible in society. With that, the opportunity to change assumptions. Soon, markets became more viable, and we saw the development of complex assistive technology, accessible travel options, adaptive clothing, and eventually, representation in film, books, and media.
While we believe in celebrating all the achievements and improvements, though, we recognize that there is still work to be done. Discrimination still exists and the disability community is often the most vulnerable in emergency situations like natural disasters or public health crises.
Ideas for Celebrating the ADA Virtually
The unforeseen obstacles of 2020 have made it difficult, or even impossible, for the disability community to gather, like usual, at Abilities Expos, disability fairs, support groups, and sporting events. Some may even know loved ones that are in the hospital right now, without the ability to have visitors. That’s why it’s so important that we all find a way to celebrate this important milestone for our community with the tools we have available!
The best way to reduce discrimination and increase access is through education! As a person with a disability, it’s vital to know your rights, and as a person who owns a business or works in public service, you can make this world more accessible by ensuring your establishment is more than compliant. To learn more about the ADA, including a detailed definition of the law and regulations, design standards, technical assistance materials, and more, visit ADA.gov.
The ADA Legacy Project is another great resource for continuous education about disability history, current news, advocacy opportunities, and much more. You can connect and follow along with them on Facebook here. (facebook.com/ADALegacy)
ADA Live! can also be a fantastic educational tool with information offered in an alternative format. It’s a free monthly podcast available nationally online. Listeners can learn about their rights and responsibilities under the ADA as leaders in the field share their knowledge, experience, and successful strategies that increase the participation of PWDs in communities and businesses. (https://www.adalive.org)
While volunteering in person may not be an option for some, you can still get involved with your local disability organization by donating money or skills that could benefit their mission. Virtual skills could include marketing, accounting, web and graphic design, content creation, and more. These local organizations, such as independent living centers, disability resource centers, and adaptive sports clubs, really improve the lives of PWDs in your community and need all the help they can get.
Political and social advocacy is also a way to get involved to protect the rights of PWDs. Stay up-to-date on proposed legislation that impacts public access or civil protections for PWDs and take the time to contact your senators and representatives to remind them not to forget the needs of our community. Learn more about getting involved here from the national leaders in advocacy for the mobility community, United Spinal. (https://unitedspinal.org/action-center/)
Reach Out and Lift Each Other Up
Now, more than ever, we need to reach out to friends in the disability community to check on them and offer support. Give a fellow buddy on wheels a call or set up a video group chat to catch up and share stories, frustrations, and concerns. Maybe help spread the word about a fundraising campaign someone you know is running for an accessible vehicle or adaptive equipment. The feeling of community can really help.
At AMS Vans, we’re proud to serve the disability community and are committed to unparalleled customer service and compassion for our customers. Happy 30th Anniversary of the ADA!