In 1990, when the Americana with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, I was just 7 years old. But because my parents had disabilities, I saw firsthand how it impacted people’s lives as I grew up. It brought an excitement to our home as it offered hope for a more accessible community in the (hopefully) not too distant future and protection against discrimination.
Not that it was actually renovated before I moved on from there, but my elementary school was only accessible to wheelchair users through a loading dock. Nobody else’s parents had to enter the school in that way, and I remember conversations about how, “Now, because of the ADA, they’ll probably have to fix that!”
And such was the situation in numerous other locations, facilities, and activities that regular families (which is what we were) might normally attend or participate in without second thought.
Regarding the protection the ADA brought, though there still is a stigma about this, I will admit that there was a bit of fear prior to 1990 that parents with disabilities were not capable of raising children, and in some cases they were actually forced to give kids up to the foster care system, based solely on the fact they had disabilities - a draconian and punitive perspective I know, but a fact nonetheless.
In my case, my siblings and I were well cared for and that never really developed, but there was nothing, really, to have protected us from the arbitrary opinion of someone in a position of power if it had come up. Under the ADA, however, that is completely illegal, as it should be if there are no other grounds on which to make a decision.
Yes, I can say that I was born at just the right time and into the perfect set of circumstances to truly appreciate The Americans with Disabilities Act, not to mention Justin Dart Jr., ADAPT, and the millions of people who advocated for its passage.
What does the ADA mean to you? It is the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, and we want to hear from you! Send stories to firstname.lastname@example.org