How has the ADA impacted your life regarding travel/mobility, education, employment, or any other aspect?
I find the ADA to be one of the most difficult laws to enforce. My family experiences ADA violations on a daily basis and we have almost no recourse. Key federal websites are inaccessible, state documents can’t be read with AT, government agencies send correspondence in hardcopy print mail only, airline staff still take my cane out of my hands, stores still don’t have wheelchair-navigable paths, businesses develop inaccessible apps, medical establishments create forms/records that we can’t access, our kids’ schools select platforms that do not follow WCAG guidelines, merchants won’t implement access accommodations, colleges adopt exclusionary platforms, etc. No one seems to take ADA cases. You can contact a dozen lawyers and get a dozen nos.
It’s interesting that there is a public perception that the ADA is a strong law that well protects disabled people, yet this has not been my experience. If a business, organization, or government entity discriminates against my disabled husband, disabled daughters, disabled mother, or myself, there is almost nothing we can do about it. Occasionally, if we mention the ADA in the course of our escalations, we’ll get some response, but overall, organizations know that there will be no consequences for violations. There seems to be no accountability in the ADA implementation system, nor are there clear policies and procedures to follow when someone encounters an issue. Even the complaint and advocacy processes to report ADA violations are often not themselves accessible to disabled people. I’ve spent my entire adult life participating in accessibility and inclusion related advocacy, and I’ve had 0 wins. This has been true whether the discriminating entity was an individual, corporation, nonprofit, or government agency.
Can you share a “before and after” experience; e.g., before the ADA I couldn’t do X or was denied access to Y, and thanks to the ADA I can do Z.
I don’t remember a time before the ADA. I was in elementary school when it was passed. Discrimination has been a continuous force in my life, though, since elementary school and beyond. If there is this much exclusion for disabled people now, I can only imagine how much worse it must have been before.
What advances in disability rights would you like to see in the next 30 years?
I would like to see a clear, concise, and accessible procedure for addressing and escalating ADA issues. Accountability at all levels of government for following the ADA. Consequences for entities who violate the ADA. More legal organizations who take ADA cases brought by individuals. An understanding that folks who raise ADA-related concerns aren’t just entitled complainers, but real people experiencing genuine barriers while trying to go about their everyday lives.
I want the non-disabled public to understand that my family is not asking for a special privilege, we just want to be able to work at our jobs, be safe in our houses, go to our doctors, raise our kids, obtain an education, shop at stores, eat at restaurants, visit businesses, participate in government programs, be active in our communities, access our own data/records, travel freely, etc. In other words, we are average people doing average things, and robust ADA legislation is needed to help insure that we are able to do these basic tasks.