NARIC and the ADA at 25

The Americans with Disabilities Act is turning 25 this year! If it was a person, it would have grown up, gone to school, and would be making its way in the world.

We here at NARIC have both personal and professional experience with the ADA. Throughout the month, we’ll share some of our thoughts on the what the ADA has meant to us and what we hope to see in the next 25 years.

From Mark Odum, our director: “The ADA has changed the landscape and will continue to bring about an equality that helps raise America’s potential. A major part of the ADA’s framework is the concept ‘universal design,’ a term unheard of by most people less than a generation ago. UD is now a core design concept that eliminates barriers, shuns exclusiveness, and instead, fosters inclusion. So, in a way, the ADA includes everyone – older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities… and that is a change we all can embrace.”

From Marta Garcia, our bilingual information specialist: “Without the ADA, I wouldn’t be able to do one of my favorite things in the world: Travel! Thanks to the ADA, I get the accommodations I need to be able to fly anywhere and see the world. I’m looking forward to the next 25 years when the ADA continues to address the civil rights of people with disabilities, continues to be a model for the world, and all people with disabilities are treated equally and have full inclusion and independence.”

From Jess Chaiken, our media and information services manager: “I had very little experience with disability before I moved to DC in 1993, just a few years after the ADA was signed into law, to attend Gallaudet University. At Gallaudet, I was immersed in the Deaf community and I saw the importance of communication access for everyone. Even so, the full meaning of the ADA didn’t hit me until I started this job. When I came to NARIC, I had the opportunity meet and work with many people with disabilities, including researchers and rehabilitation professionals, many of whom would not be able to live and work independently without the rights and provisions outlined in the ADA. It’s been an honor to support the NIDILRR grantee community in their efforts to ensure that people with disabilities have the right to live independently in the community of their choosing.”

From Sheila Turner, our abstractor: “I’m looking forward to the next 25 years when the ADA will be fully recognized and implemented everywhere. I was aware of the ADA before I came to work at NARIC, but had no personal experience. It makes me sad when I hear on the news about someone who has been denied public services or been fired from a job because of perceived limitations. I get mad when I see abuse of these rights, whether is misuse of parking spaces or blocking access to programs and services. It seems that not only are the businesses and employers unaware of the ADA’s protections, neither are the people who could benefit from it. I believe that through education about and enforcement of the provisions of the ADA, these issues can be resolved and people with disabilities will have equal access to services in the next 25 year. I’m going to do my part in that process.”

From Catherine Graves, our information and media specialist: “My first experience with the ADA was at Howard Community College:  I remember students with disabilities fighting to get shuttle services between the main campus and an annexed building.  It was unsafe for those with mobility issues to traverse the steep hill and cross a roadway to get the language and mathematics building. I went on to work for with individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a residential/community setting and then joined NARIC in 2005.  In that time, I have come to realize how monumental the Americans with Disabilities Act is for providing protections and rights under the law for persons with disabilities on a personal and professional level. I came to NARIC with eight years’ experience with direct-consumer care of individuals with multiple disabilities in addition to TBI and have continued to assist the layperson to the professional in matters related to disability and rehabilitation.  My family and I all have some personal experience of disability and have utilized the ADA in seeking accommodations in the workplace as well as in the community (ADA parking, etc.).  The ADA provides individuals with disabilities with protection under the law against discrimination and allows for greater access to the community through accessible public transportation and buildings.  This important piece of disabilities civil rights legislation that has been a model for other nations as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities – Happy 25 Years ADA!”

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