Disability Awareness

ADA

AMS Vans Joins the Disability Community in Celebrating 30 Years of the ADA

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!

Education
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)

Getting Involved
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!

happy black woman in wheelchair wheeling down the sidewalk in a red shirt

Disability Awareness Tips to Make Public Environments Inclusive

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to discuss how to make the workplace and other public environments more inclusive. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 61 million adults with disabilities are in the United States. Since people with disabilities form such a large segment of the country’s population, being inclusive is good for business and, simply the right thing to do.

Whether your organization is looking to hire or currently employs people with disabilities, or if you serve the general public, some disability awareness and etiquette can go a long way. In fact, you can become part of the solution by doing your part to making our world more inclusive for all.

Use Appropriate Language

The language we use can become habit, and often we underestimate the power of words. Many people with disabilities prefer inclusive language that puts the person first, versus the disability. Examples of person-first language include:

  • a person with a disability
  • a person who uses a wheelchair
  • the individual has a disability

Terms that convey pity such as “handicapped”, “crippled”, “wheelchair-bound”, “suffers from”, and “the disabled” are considered outdated and offensive to some individuals. Others may use these words themselves, but it helps to be sensitive.

Be Aware of the Physical Environmentlong wheelchair ramp

Being ADA-compliant is not enough to qualify a physical environment as inclusive. Careless placement of trash cans and boxes can block wheelchair-accessible entrances or make corridors too narrow for a wheelchair to pass. Common items need to be located where everyone can reach them. For instance, in the workplace, office supplies should be stored where an employee who uses a wheelchair can get them independently.

Ramps are great, but be sure to check thresholds to ensure they’re smooth, and also check electric door openers from time to time to make sure they’re functioning properly.

 

Model Proper Social Interaction

When you’re communicating with an adult with a disability, always address the person with a disability directly. You want to avoid speaking through a caregiver. If your communication is through an interpreter, you should still direct your comments to the person with a disability.

When you meet someone with a disability for the first time, you should offer to shake hands as you would with anyone else. A person who is not able to shake with the right hand may extend the left hand. When a handshake isn’t possible with either hand, a fist bump could be an acceptable substitute. Learn more about greeting someone with limited upper-mobility here.

close up of a fist pound in an office setting

 

When you don’t know someone well, asking questions an individual’s disability is considered poor taste. An individual with a disability wants to be seen as a person, not as a disability. Plus, the details of someone’s disability could be sensitive or difficult to discuss. Respect for other people’s privacy includes the privacy of people with disabilities.

Ask Before Helping

You should never assume that a person with a disability has limitations that require your help without asking first. If you try to help without asking, it’s possible to do more harm than good. For example, suddenly helping a person who is pushing their wheelchair up a ramp can cause them to lose their balance. Or, you could accidentally touch a part of the wheelchair that could

Like most people, a person with a disability values their independence and will usually let you know when he or she needs assistance. 

A good rule of thumb is to help a person with a disability in the same way you would help any other person. If you would open the door for anyone, go ahead and do the same for someone with a disability. And, again, if it looks like someone needs help, but you’re not sure – just ask!

Don’t Touch Service Animals

In public environments, a service animal is there to work. That’s true even if the animal is not wearing a harness that asks you not to pet it. It’s never acceptable to touch or to interact with a service animal without permission. Keep in mind, too, that there are several types of service animals; not just dogs. It’s more rare, but miniature ponies, Capuchin monkeys and even potbelly pigs can assist individuals with disabilities.

service dog sniffing its master who is swimming in a pool

 

Accessible Transportation is an Important Part of Inclusivity

If your organization offers any sort of transportation to the public, even occasionally for specific clients, it’s important that that service is accessible, too. At AMS Vans, we offer a large selection of wheelchair accessible vehicles for purchase and rental (short- and long-term) with nationwide delivery!

To learn more, contact one of our knowledgable mobility specialists at 800-775-8267 or visit us online at www.amsvans.com

Remember the Golden Rule

You can summarize all of these tips with the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. As you encounter people with disabilities, just remember they want independence and respect just like you and everyone else.

As public environments become inclusive, individuals with disabilities can be more involved in their communities. That’s a win for everyone!