How has the ADA impacted your life regarding travel/mobility, education, employment, or any other aspect?
The Americans with Disability Act has allowed for me to receive an education. After a brain and spinal chord injury that prohibited me from returning to school for months, this necessary act made it possible for me to return with the necessary accommodations. Education in this country should not be a liberty, but it should be a right. It may be a privilege, one that I have not taken for granted, but it should be a privilege granted to all. Education is the foundation of our country, the foundation of a democracy, but more than that it is a foundation of society. When one is allowed to discriminate in the school system, on is allowed to ostracize, to isolate, to unjustly disregard those equally deserving of education. No one should be refused the ability to receive a diploma or pass the next year on the sole basis of a disability. We all work hard to ensure our rights in this country, but for those who have to work hard as it is to merely survive and try to be “normal”, it is crucial we work hard for all those who can work for their rights.
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.
Before ADA I likely wouldn’t have been able to return to school. Before ADA I likely would’ve denied the ability to graduate high school. Before ADA I likely wouldn’t be able to have a successful career, but ADA ensures the hope of a future in the world. It allowed me to have the accommodations necessary to return safely to school. It ensured me that I would receive a diploma for my hard work in high school. It ensured me that I will be able to have a career, because I worked hard. ADA is a pillar in this society. It’s the keystone that allows for the millions of people that need to work just a bit harder to have a fighting chance at their dreams.
What advances in disability rights would you like to see in the next 30 years?
There are innumerable advances that need to occur. I can really only talk from what I have personally experienced though. There needs to be more accountability for SPEC coordinators at schools. Unfortunately, my first SPEC was not abiding as much as she should. Students and parents need to understand their rights and there needs to be more education. I noticed when it came to creating my 504, my doctor didn’t really have any ideas. I think doctors need to be educated a bit more on what students will need in school, so they can advocate and support. Lastly, I am concerned about the requirement to mark disability on a form to get a job. I have an invisible injury, as I call it. Brain and spinal chord injuries are often unseen to the untrained eye. The pain is often unseen. However, for those disabilities where it is more or less physical pain and is rather invisible, I would not want to disclose it. If I do not want accommodations, but would rather maintain my privacy to prevent discrimination in the hiring process, I believe that is something I should be able to have. Given, I do understand the merits of having it there, but that is my personal experience. On a final note, we need more community outreach and education in schools on disabilities. It’s disheartening when I go to the DMV to get a disability placquard I get heckled and yelled at my people saying I’m just trying to park closer. I just quietly cry and leave. These invisible injuries can be the source of bullying when ignorance is prevalent. It should be a right to feel comfortable going to the DMV or to school, and I don’t think this is mitigated as much as it should be. Bullying doesn’t constitute one or two or three instances, but why let harassment prologue either? I think schools should be educated on a few various common disabilities so students can learn to be supportive.