Where were you on that auspicious day 25 years ago – July 26, 1990? For people with disabilities, they were celebrating a milestone. President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. Joining him were Evan Kemp, chairman of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission; the Rev. Harold Wllke; Sandra Parrino, chairman of the National Council on Disability; and Justin Dar, chairman of the President’s Council on Disabilities.
It was an oppressive day of heat and humidity, but a day that inspired a nationwide change for people with disabilities with President Bush’s closing remarks, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”
The Americans with Disabilities prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and government activities.
But, that wall is still standing across our nation. There are still businesses that have not embraced the required changes to better serve people with disabilities. Still issues with access to buildings, sidewalk ramps, accessible bathrooms, employment and transportation issues, etc. Until we experience the loss of an ability, we are not conscience of their plight; we take our abilities for granted.
Today, people with disabilities are rallying across our nation to “LET THEIR VOICES BE HEARD” though words, songs, and actions – regardless of their ability. They are more than people with disabilities; they are people with FEELINGS, EMOTIONS, HOPES and DREAMS. There aspire to be ALL THEY CAN BE. And we, the able bodied, need to encourage them along their path of life to achieve their degree, marry the person of the dreams, have children, start a business, experience the trill of victory and also, as we do, the agony of defeat in sports. AND DO IT with pride.
As the Richmond Disability Examiner, I am proud to cheer them on – to be part of their achievements, cry with them when they are sad, and rejoice in their victories over failure.
I am extremely proud of three very precious women with disabilities – My Sister My Hero, Cathy Porter, Ms. Wheelchair MD 2007, Juliette Rizzo, Ms. Wheelchair MD 2004 and Ms. Wheelchair American 2005 and Sheila Whitaker, Ms. Senior Wheelchair MD 2013. These three amazing ladies inspire me daily to press on and never give up. They are my HERO’s and advocates for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Congratulations to these ladies plus all the Ms. Wheelchair’s across our nation who are completing for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2015.
25 years of change – although it has improved the lives of people with disabilities, it is still in motion. Just as technology continues to improve the lives of all people, the advocates for the ADA continue their path for a BARRIER FREE nation where everyone has access to the same rights and privileges. The privilege to experience all that LIFE has to offer.
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