The Americans with Disabilities Act and You
July 26, 1990 marks the date that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was signed into law by President George Bush, legislation that was initially presented to the federal government by Senator Tom Harkin in 1988. I have a vivid recollection of that date in the summer of 1990 and of discussions with non-therapist friends about its implications. At that time, within my social circle, persons not working in the health care arena seemed especially interesting in learning from me more about the ADA.
Admittedly, I am someone often guilty of putting my foot in my mouth and of not being politically correct, so I'll just say it; the passing of the ADA did not really change my life one bit. I attribute two good reasons for that. First, I have been fortunate to not have a disability that prevents me from going about my days; anything I want to do, I can essentially do. But second, as an occupational therapist, the ADA seem to protect rights of people that occupational therapists had always been working with and fighting for the many years prior to the passage of this legislation. hat we didn't have the ADA or anything like it before then, seems rather archaic to me when I stop to think about it!
The mid 1960s was the awakening of the Civil Rights Movement, and laws credited to then-President Lyndon Johnson. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the year when I was nearly finished with OT school, was the beginning of laws written to expand the civil rights of those persons with disabilities. The ADA further defined and required greater accessibility for people in many areas including mobility, transportation and travel, housing, communication, and employment. September 15, 2010 marked the signing of the federal Standards of Accessible Design, part of the ADA specific to new construction. All of these laws opened doors (no pun intended) for OTs working in the community and as consultants for enterprises trying to make their facilities and services more user friendly, but more important, made the world a much bigger place for persons with a disability. See ada.gov for specifics about these laws.
I would have been prudent to "interview" some of my friends and relatives who have disabilities and ask them how the ADA has changed their life, especially those who have had their disability since birth. I promise I will do that and include it in a future post.
In the meantime, I am asking readers of this blog, whether you are a person with a disability and a consumer of healthcare services, or a therapist working with persons with disabilities: How has the ADA impacted your personal and/or professional life?
I welcome your comments on this blog regarding your personal experience with the ADA since its inception nearly a quarter of a century ago.