As I was watching the news this morning, I became saddened by the thought that the man who changed the way people with disabilities live is no longer with us. President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. When he signed this act, I wonder if he ever thought he would have to utilize the law himself. For the last few years of his life, he used a wheelchair and since June a service dog named Sully. I wonder if his perspective changed on the law he signed once he saw it from the view of a person with a disability.
While I believe we have a long way to go with equal rights for people with disabilities, I reflect on how Bush changed the lives of people with disabilities by signing the ADA.
Without the ADA, many people with physical and sensory disabilities would not be able to go to restaurants or other public places without worrying about the accessibility. I think about my coworkers and consumers who often go out to eat not being able to get up the curb due to lack of a cutout. I also think about myself possibly falling down a stair that is not clearly marked. Prior to the ADA being signed, America was extremely inaccessible to those with physical disabilities. Thanks to George H. W. Bush we have made a lot of progress since then.
Without the ADA, people with disabilities could face discrimination in employment situations. I think about the number of people who would be unable to work in their desired professions without reasonable accommodations, myself included. I am a person who loves working and therefore this is a frightening thought to me. Thanks to George H. W. Bush people with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities in the workforce.
Without the ADA, many people with physical and sensory disabilities would not be able to ride public transportation. I think about our (Alliance of Disability Advocates) travel training program, which teaches people with disabilities how to ride the fixed route bus system, and how this could not be the program it is today without the ADA. For many people with disabilities, the fixed route bus system is their only mode of transportation. Thanks to the ADA people with disabilities can travel around their communities to work, attend school and participate in social events. Thank you George H. W. Bush for making community inclusion possible.
In my opinion, every person with a disability strives to live a “normal” life. This means going out to eat, having a job, getting married and having a family. The ADA works to take down the barriers that once stood in the way of people with disabilities living their lives. Thank you, George H. W. Bush, for helping knock down these barriers. You will never be forgotten.
Written by Sydney Breslow, Community Inclusion Specialist at Alliance of Disability Advocates.