The Americans with Disabilities Act has accomplished a lot. But the challenges still exist.
“…Let these terrible walls of exclusion come down…” President Bush declared on July 26, 1990, when signing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
These metaphorical walls of exclusion and most of the physical and programmatic barriers have crumbled. Although my life and the lives of 61 million other Americans with disabilities are significantly better because of the ADA, we still have a lot of work to do. This work includes both existing and future barriers that hold parts of the wall of exclusion in place.
The ADA skillfully merged 25 years of federal anti-discrimination laws into an umbrella platform that included the private sector. For the first time in the history of the world, we had a framework of inclusion and accessibility standards to eliminate the ugly and overt discrimination faced by people with disabilities. This framework is now the one that the rest of the world replicates. ADA could be seen as a modern implementation of Manifest Destiny that Americans enjoyed a century ago. They all sought greater independence, more freedom, and more choice to achieve the American Dream.
We have seen many universal improvements in our schools, businesses, communities and recreation activities. These enhanced outdoor activities in our state parks were captured earlier this month by another attorney (Paula Russo). The electric doors in the grocery store simultaneously help the customer with his trolley and the wheelchair user. Edgers on our sidewalks have been violently opposed by our cities and towns, but today they are loved by the mother with a stroller, the cyclist and, oh yes, the pedestrian who uses a walking aid. mobility. In our educational spaces, we are enriched by their inclusiveness rather than being handicapped from a singular perspective.
The smart phone in your pocket today features text-to-speech technology, character adjustments, and a variety of notification features that adapt to user preferences with the click of a button. Those accessible technological features that universally serve the community without reference to gender, age, ethnicity, religion, race and/or identity. These tools are the direct result of the fall of these walls.
However, as we celebrate 32 years of ADA progress on July 26, 2022, I fear we are becoming complacent about our responsibilities to ensure everyone has equal opportunity and equal access to all. goods, services and activities.
Some of this apprehension is rooted in the transformation to electric vehicles and autonomous transportation. In fact, I learned on the Discovery Channel the other day that the entrepreneurial spirit in America is designing and flying individualized “Jetsons” type flying devices. These three things are very exciting, but currently cannot accommodate people with disabilities.
I ask you all, have you seen or used accessible charging stations or an accessible electric vehicle? The answer is no. Many within the industries said “don’t worry, we’ll get to you”. Oh good? When? Another 25 years?
After:Help us make state parks accessible to everyone | Opinion
Computers, smartphones, and the Internet have grown exponentially and effortlessly while providing accessible functionality. The inclusion was simultaneous – not separate but equal. Likewise, I’ve seen many businesses and government buildings choose to only meet minimum standards of access, rather than a more universal approach. How would you feel if you could only use 50% of the doors? Join me in advocating for building a future that meets the needs of our most vulnerable population, because that means it also meets the needs of the able-bodied population. It’s a simple return on investment. So as we celebrate our successes, let’s set the bar a little higher for the next 32 years.
JR Harding is an attorney, author, lecturer, and faculty member at Florida State University. He can be contacted at [email protected]
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