Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is turning 32, I have quality of life. As a person with a disability, I don’t know where I would be without this civil rights act; for it has opened up a world of opportunities for myself and so many others. My friend, Maria Matzik, and today’s guest-blogger is one of the best advocates I know, as well as a force to be reckoned with. It’s my pleasure to have her share with you today on the milestone of the ADA, as she sees it. Get ready, you’re in for a treat!
As we are preparing to celebrate the 32nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA, it’s important to reflect on the milestones of this legislation as well as some of the challenges and barriers to access that we continue to face. It is important to remember that this fight is far from over. Though it’s important to celebrate every victory, we must always remember the history behind this legislation. We must never forget the fight that so many dedicated their lives to. We must honor our family of disability rights activists who have gone before us and have died fighting for the rights and freedoms that we ALL enjoy and expect today.
The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. When President Bush signed this comprehensive piece of legislation he stated, “Let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down”. The ADA is a commitment to a full and equal opportunity for all American citizens. It prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life.
After years of advocating and protesting for equal rights, the fight of the disability community was finally heard. Unfortunately, 32 years later, the ADA is still not recognized by many. Accommodations are still viewed as “optional” rather than a requirement and individuals with disabilities are still fighting for access and equal rights. Individuals with disabilities are still treated as second class citizens who should be thankful for what is given to them. Society’s views suggest that people with disabilities are less capable than non-disabled individuals. Attitudes towards people with disabilities, are often more disabling than the disability itself.
In a study done in 2019 one in four Americans report having a disability. These statistics make the disability community the largest “minority” demographics in the nation. Yet, our voice is still not heard.
Disability is a natural part of the human experience. The Disability Culture is the only culture that everyone will join at some point in their life.
I ask every person to take a stand with the disability community, if not for us, for yourself and your future. Challenge these attitudes and beliefs. In the words of a dear friend, disability rights activist and the Commander himself, Roland Sykes:
Behavior speaks MUCH louder than words when teaching by example.
Speak your truth, quietly and clearly, and eventually your word becomes law in the land.
Become the unstoppable force that moves the immovable object.