How has the ADA impacted your life regarding travel/mobility, education, employment, or any other aspect?
I worked for many years in investment banking during a period of significant sight loss. It was difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I needed to ask my employer for help and knowing that the ADA supported my need for reasonable accommodations was incredibly helpful, not just in a practical sense because the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, but also from the perspective that I had a legal basis and support in my difficult situation. That gave me a huge sense of security as I navigated this difficult time in my personal and professional life.
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 am 41 years old and so was only 11 and entering high school when the ADA was enacted. While I have not experienced school or work with a disability before the ADA happened, I have met many older folks who describe much pain and difficulty when they encountered the many physical and virtual barriers that existed before the ADA. Nowadays, I also know from personal experience the sad reality that many institutions do not proactively address things required by the ADA and instead wait – either deliberately or unintentionally – for a court case before they find a way to adhere. While far from ideal, at least we have the ADA as a backstop and reference point …it’s almost a safety net while we continue working for more inclusive design and practices across sectors and segments of society.
What advances in disability rights would you like to see in the next 30 years?
Underemployment and unemployment of people with disabilities is, for me, one of the single most disempowering features of our modern day. I believe that all organizations should be required to hire the same % of people with disabilities as is reflected in the population of their state. Without a quota system, I simply don’t believe that enough employers “get” disability and this policy would force greater awareness and empowerment to happen. If we wait for market forces to solve this one, we’ll be waiting a long long time.