The ADA: 20 Years Old or 20 Years New?

July 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm 2 comments

Kimball Gray at an accessible movie theaterNot the typical title of an article about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), especially on its 20th birthday. This title comes from my observation of humans, some call them people, and how they can view the same thing and yet see entirely different things, aren’t we humans…. so human! So what do you think, is the ADA 20 years old or new?

I find myself moving back and forth on this question of old or new. Many of my friends and colleagues were engaged in the effort to bring the ADA to passage. However, nearly all of the guys I play quad rugby with know nothing of the history that brought us curb cuts on every corner or the blue line parking places that they use daily. While at work or around colleagues, I can speak the language that only those that have lived in a world without civil rights can use, to communicate volumes with one or two words. Using those same words among my younger friends carries no meaning and gets me nothing but, “the old guys mumbling again” look from each of them. I tried to tell them that it was not always this easy, then I realized I sounded like my grandfather and abruptly ceased!

So back to my question regarding the ADA and the different views held or should I say different perspectives on these past 20 years? In which camp are you? Do you see the ADA as being 20 years old? Have you experienced great change in your life as a person with a disability?

Earlier I mentioned a few changes I’ve experienced as a wheelchair user that many like me can readily understand and appreciate, such as the curb cut and accessible parking. These are two that I typically use when describing the pre-ADA period because these are very visible accessibility features. A few others that may not be understood as well are wider doors and my best friend, the door handle. I am one of those that does not miss the doorknob whatsoever. It looks like I may be a card carrying member of the 20 year old camp.

Now for the “glass is half empty” also known as the ADA 20 years new camp. These individuals have a look at the ADA over its first 20 years and see most Americans with disabilities unemployed or underemployed.

They see that we have to continue to explain why it is important that we be able to get into a store by ourselves or defend the right to even be in a store. This camp believes that the law is a mere 20 years new and needs to do a great deal of growing. Now I’m confused, I see and even experience this on at least a weekly basis. So does that make me a member of the 20 years new camp?

I believe I will take the human way out and say both camps are right and I am a member of both. I rarely think if there will be a curb cut at the corner but am more worried about it being blocked or built too steep. I also see businesses that bar me from entering because they were built as a walk down under a building before the ADA.

We have come a long way in these past 20 years and the ADA is still the path to the dream we seek. It has accomplished much in its first 20 years but it has its work cut out for it to turn the dreams of today into tomorrow’s reality. Have a happy 20th birthday ADA!

By Kimball Gray, Director of Community Services
Article from the ECNV Declaration (Summer 2010 Edition)


Entry filed under: ADA, Newsletter - The ECNV Declaration. Tags: , .

Markup of H.R. 3101 ECNV Travel Trainer is featured by Greater Greater Washington

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michelle Byars Gray  |  July 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    You didn’t mention the humans that think curb cuts are in place to store mounds of shoveled snow. Maybe in 2030 this will no longer be common practice. We can dream…

  • 2. Tina Morgan  |  July 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Or the curb cuts that are not near the handicapped parking spots – or the curb cuts that are in front of the drive-thru lane…

    Or the people who park so closely to the handicapped spot that it wouldn’t have mattered if there even WAS designated handicapped parking…

    (Observations since my mom has been mainly confined to a wheelchair – at least she has me to help her but who helps everyone else?)


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