July 26, 1990, was a life-changing day for people like me. Twenty-five years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law.

If you’re able-bodied, you may not realize how important the law has been for people with disabilities. Thanks to the legislation, an extension of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that Congress passed with bipartisan support, Americans with disabilities — about one-fifth of the population — have legal redress against the discrimination they face in so many aspects of their lives.

One day in 1989, I went to grab a burger at a deli.

“You can’t stay here,” the man behind the counter said. “Blind people will depress other people.”

A quarter century later, because of the ADA, such discrimination is illegal. A patron prohibited from entering a restaurant or cinema; a student denied an education because a school isn’t wheelchair-accessible; or a qualified job applicant denied an interview because of his or her disability _ they can seek legal redress for this discrimination.

Thanks to the ADA, wheelchair ramps, Braille on elevators and sign language interpreters have become a familiar part of everyday life. The other day, a server at a diner not only welcomed me, but offered me a Braille menu. Deaf people can access captioning of their favorite shows on TV. Employers are hiring qualified people with disabilities. Recently, an Apple technical support representative told me that he was “hard of hearing” and that a hearing aid enabled him to effectively do his work.

Yet, despite this progress, much remains to be achieved. Less than 20 percent of people with disabilities were employed last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many doctor’s offices and hospitals still aren’t wheelchair-accessible. A few years ago, I was hospitalized with a badly injured knee. In the hospital’s orthopedic surgery ward, I was unable to get into the bathroom with a walker. Medical facilities, as well as courts and prisons, too frequently don’t have sign language interpreters for deaf people.

Inaccessible websites continue to put up barriers for blind and visually impaired people. I’m often at my wit’s end when I try to book an airline reservation or find a company’s contact information online because a site isn’t accessible to me. Deaf people often can’t get good video captioning online.

Amtrak, our national passenger train service, is particularly behind the times. Just 18 of Amtrak’s nearly 400 stations are accessible to people using wheelchairs, crutches, braces or walkers (or even a woman with a baby stroller).

“Let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down,” President George H.W. Bush said as he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act 25. As we celebrate the ADA, let’s keep working to tear those walls down.


(4) comments

KB Thomas

What I don't understand is the Republicans who voted against an international treaty to support disabilities due to the fact that it would infringe on American Sovereignty now are going along with the NAFTA on steroids Trans Pacific Partnership.
This next election is going to be the most important in American history because it might lead to a fascist takeover of the USA. Just for history's sake, please review Major General Butler & The Fascist Takeover of The USA A Warning From History.

KB Thomas

FDR, In may of 1968 I sold 13 properties and the next thing I knew, I was called to active duty with the 1011th Supply and Service here in Emporia. We were dispatched to Fort Benning and the unit was sent to Vietnam. Most of us in the unit had college degrees, Master degrees and one had a doctor degree. We were a great unit. The unit that was supposed to go was located in Nebraska but, because of the race riots, they were not called up. Over night they changed our unit to quarter master. There were to many in our unit so the last one's to enlist did not have to go over. Mike Wise joined up the day before we got called to active duty and he and Ray Toso never had to go overseas although they did a great job and were rewarded for their exceptional service as outstanding service. My tour of duty was for only 90 days at Cho Chi and I was a personal management specialist. I was lucky to arrive just after the Viet Cong over ran the compound and after being home for several years, the Reader Digest reported that the Viet Cong had a 3 story underground hospital under our base camp which as I recall was the 25th infantry.
So far our unit has lost 17 to Agent Orange. Mike Hubert was killed in action. I receive partial agent orange disability.
One of the things I remember is that we were not allowed to load our wepons on guard duty because of the use of drugs. My friend Mike Slattery who has passed away went to Laos once a month in regular clothes with a satchel handcuffed to his arm. He didn't know what it was but, thought it might be cash for drugs. When I came home flying into Forbes Air Force Base, we were told that the highest ranking man needs to meet a 3 star General. The plane with all the higher ups broke down in Alaska and the highest ranking man on board was a buck sergeant. Because we landed at Forbes in Topeka, we were not spit on or called names. I did tell the TV reporter that I was not over there very long but, it looked like we were not going to win the war and about 6 years later we pulled out. The only thing new in the world is the history we don't know. My father was a World War 2 hero. The real hero's never talk about it. They did it once and that was enough. FDR, I think I know you and I believe you have a purple heart and maybe more medals and again, thank you for your service and one of my favorite videos is Smedely Butler War Is A Racket and there is one in which he addressed Congress when a bunch of huge corporations wanted him to command an army to take over the government. God bless America.

KB Thomas

Under the direction of John King President of Emporia State some 50 years ago became I believe the first college in America to address the disabilities of the students. Back in 1963, I remember football players carrying disabled students up three floors for classes. Emporia's downtown walks for people in wheel chairs was also a credit to John King.


Wow! Are you Ill? You are actually supporting Decency!
I thought sure, you would see "disabilities" as some sort of "world take-over"? Did you serve in the Military...just would like to know.

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