What the ADA Means to Me

Red white and blue ADA30 logo that includes the text Americans with Disabilities Act, Celebrate the ADA! July 26,2020

July 26, 2020, marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA). The Dayle McIntosh Center (DMC) proudly reaffirmed our mission of “access and independence by, and for, people with disabilities.”

The 30th anniversary of the ADA is a time to remember how far we have come and why it is still important to raise awareness and to support efforts to fully implement the ADA.

The Dayle McIntosh reached out to our staff, community, and other stakeholders and asked them: 1. How has the ADA impacted or changed your life, and, 2. What does the ADA mean to you? This is what we heard.

Having a family member with a significant disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) afforded to my loved one, as well as all of us family members, the right of FREEDOM and INCLUSIVITY in society as a whole and all that that implies.

On a global scale, the ADA set an unprecedented example to the international community at large to address the systematic discrimination, barriers, and challenges faced by people with disabilities.  Between 1991 and 1999, the ADA inspired disability rights laws in Luxembourg, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.  The Latin American countries were also influenced by the ADA starting in Brazil in 1992 then followed similar laws in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela.  The impact of the ADA on the world is immeasurable and ongoing!

Anonymous, DMC Staff

Thank you very much for the ADA! I am a disabled person because of polio I use my forearm crutches for moving short distances and a wheelchair for long-distance travel. Without the ADA I believe it might be much harder on me. I have received services and support from the California Department of Rehabilitation, (DOR), that provided help for me to pay for my tuition and things for school. Textbooks are very expensive. Paying for school was not easy with my little income. I believe because of the ADA, I have access to most public places. I also believe it helped to create more job opportunities for disabled persons. Thanks, ADA, for helping my life to be better.

Kevin Dinh, DMC Staff

I was born in 1991, one year after the ADA was passed, and have been lucky to live my entire life with my rights recognized and protected by law. Because of the ADA, I was able to get a fair and equal college education: my classes were moved to accessible buildings, ramps were installed on graduation stages, I received the extra time I needed for exams, and there were Disability Resource Centers I could visit if I needed help understanding my rights.

I know our country isn’t perfect, and we have a long way to go towards true disability justice – but the ADA was one of our most important steps forward. The ADA says that we are equal, we are valuable, and we deserve better. And I will always be grateful to the amazing disability rights activists who made that statement possible.

Megan Granata, DMC Staff

I’m one who became disabled post-ADA (1993). The spirit of the ADA has strengthened the disability rights movement and encouraged some businesses and state legislators (including California’s) to go beyond minimal protections. It’s meant that I could go where I’d gone before, and keep on doing what I’d done before.

I’ve benefited from the “ADA Generation,” students who have grown up believing that disability discrimination is wrong and that they can do something about it. As a consumer, a parent, and an educator, the spirit of the ADA enables me to discuss how disability rights make a difference. The ADA has meant a spirit of openness and community. It’s meant that PWD’s are recognized as participants in politics and society, rather than recipients of charity. The efforts to narrow the ADA’s influence mean that the independent living movement and Dayle McIntosh Center are very important. 

Arthur W. Blaser, Professor, DMC Board Member

The ADA means opportunity to me. Because of the rights granted by the ADA and further addressed in other legislation, I was given accommodations in my education that allowed me to accurately demonstrate my knowledge and abilities. As a result, I was accepted to my dream college and earned my bachelor’s in Sign Language Interpreting. With that degree, I was eligible to take the tests required for certification in my field. Now, I am a nationally certified sign language interpreter qualified to work in positions I used to only dream about. I am deeply grateful for the ADA because it has allowed me opportunities to pursue my education and career goals. 

Heather Foust, DMC Staff

The passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act meant leveling the playing field. I became a person with a disability literally weeks before the ADA was signed in July 1990. It was very significant to me as I remember all of the media hype building up to the occasion as at the time I was losing my vision rapidly. All the powers that be were telling me how the ADA would immediately make my new life as a blind person easier. Well, as you may have guessed, it did not; at least, not immediately so. Like any legislation of such a grand scale, the ADA took time to have an impact on the lives of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, the fact that public busses announce the upcoming stops over loudspeakers; the fact that most street crossings have curb cuts for wheelchair access; the fact that websites, more and more of them every day, are accessible to users with little or no vision, are all results of people who took a stand and fought for these changes. With the ADA, change could be mandated via lawsuits. Often times, and grudgingly so, entities have been forced to make changes via lawsuits. And low and behold, wouldn’t you know it; these changes have been to the benefit of everyone, not just to the disabled community. Buses announcing upcoming stops help everyone when a bus is crowded and folks cannot see out of the window. Curb cuts help bike riders, skaters, people temporarily disabled who use crutches, baby strollers, and seniors to navigate street crossings. Having accessible websites is just plain and simply a good business move as inaccessible sites exclude an ever-increasing proportion of potential consumers.

So, over the years, I have truly observed the benefits of the ADA make positive change. We still have mountains to climb, but because of the ADA, we have access to actually summit those mountains.

Darren Gresham, DMC Staff

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed. When I think about this important part of civil rights, a few words come to mind. The first word is “freedom”. As a person in the blind/visually impaired community, there are many limitations that are placed on individuals, due to their lack of sight. However, because of the ADA, I can access restaurant menus in Braille or other accessible formats, travel on public transportation with the help of auditory announcements for train stations or bus stops, and other everyday tasks. The other word that comes to my mind is “sacrifice”. I understand that in order for me to have the freedom of independence, it cost some people something, whether it was their lives or constant protests. As I continue to reflect on the “freedom” the ADA promotes and the “sacrifices” that were made, I am encouraged to not take disability rights for granted. The ADA is a constant reminder of how far we have come, where we are, and how much work needs to be done for the future. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA, may we continue to remember that it cost something for the freedom we have today.

Danyelle Cerillo, DMC Staff

As a young man with a disability, I often take things for granted. The simple things like going into a public restroom, rolling throughout the community, being able to have access to our educational system, and many, many other things that we often do not think about. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 began to level the playing field for the disability’s community, however, pioneers Ed Roberts and Judy Heumann, plus many other advocates, paved the way for the accessibility we enjoy today. The next generation of people with disabilities may learn from their predecessors and continue to advocate. Disability is a normal part of the human experience and will eventually impact the majority of Americans at some point in their life. Therefore, we need to continue developing a united front to help improve our healthcare delivery system, our long-term care resources. Additional resources would enable individuals to have the autonomy to receive support services to maintain their independence at different stages throughout their life. And lastly, while vastly improved, there are many other ways to enhance our transportation system making it more easily accessible, reliable, and affordable for all Americans to have access to the community. Although there are many other issues that need to be addressed, these are the three big areas that I encounter throughout my day-to-day activities. I believe one day we can live in a society where places are accessible, and resources are readily available.

As we embark on this new decade with uncertainty, we must learn from all of the hard work that it took to pass the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These laws have taught us that we can come together as Americans, with or without a disability, to continue to advocate for legislation that protects the rights of Americans under a bill similar to the Disability Integration Act of 2019 as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our civil rights.

Bhumit Shah, DMC Staff

Having lived as an able-bodied woman for over 20 years prior to my disability the ADA has many meanings to me. One that stands out immediately is that it protects my rights and enables me to be able to continue to pursue acting and modeling opportunities. The ADA has given me the ability to go places and see things I would have never had access to go see or do. 

Marcy Lovett, DMC Board Member

1990 was a very significant year in my life. I was 18 years of age and graduated high school. I was more than ready to begin building my life in the real world. However, because of my disability, combined with all of the normal uncertainties young people experience, I had no idea what that life might look like. While I was just taking the first steps on the path toward my future, disability activists were advocating for passage of the ADA. I can remember watching the evening news and seeing footage of disabled activists getting out of their wheelchairs, dropping their crutches, and crawling up the steps of the United States Capitol building. I would like to say that I was inspired to action by the coverage. Unfortunately, I was too preoccupied with going to college and moving on with my life. I had no concept of the disability rights movement or how the ADA might impact me. However, as time passed and I encountered challenges and discrimination, I began to realize its importance. Whether it is accessible transportation, protections against discrimination in the workplace, access to movies showing at the local cinema, or ever-increasing access to websites, the ADA has made a dramatic difference in my life. Unfortunately, our work to secure access and equality for everyone in the disability community is far from finished. We continue to fight for greater availability of affordable, accessible, and integrated housing, employment opportunities, and to help our brothers and sisters escape from nursing homes and institutional settings. The struggles facing our community today as we battle COVID-19 highlight the need for us to continue to fight for dignity, inclusion, and justice.

Larry Wanger, DMC Staff

For me, the American’s with Disabilities Act means three things. First, it is a beautiful symbol of victory. We would not have the ADA without the blood, sweat, and tears of so many disabled folks who continue to fight for our freedom and equality. It is also a promise that people with disabilities should be able to live, work, and play in the community like everyone else. Lastly, it is a reminder that we are not done. Thirty years later, we are still fighting to be thought of as an asset when important decisions about employment, architecture, and transportation are made.

As a person with mental illness, chronic pain, and fatigue, the ADA allows me to take the space and time I need to be successful. It can be something as formal as an accommodated work schedule or as simple as a footstool and ice packs.

Brittany Zazueta, DMC Staff

The ADA allows people to see me and know my worth for who I am without the fear of being discriminated against nor prohibited from living freely.

Because of ADA, I feel safe knowing that there is a law protecting myself and my community from discrimination while providing equal opportunities.  The ADA strengthens human determination and will to live without barriers.

Anonymous, DMC Staff

I came to the United States from Mexico City when I was 8 years old. Growing up, I had no idea the ADA existed. I discovered the ADA when I was in my mid 20’s. I realized that everything I was able to do and be was helped by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA means having the ability to obtain a job, get an equal education, and gives me access to resources and opportunities in my community. Most importantly the ADA means I am treated equally, just like everyone else.

The ADA has helped me see that I am valuable despite my disability. The ADA has given me the confidence to go out in the world to teach and encourage others to go out and face the world and say “I have a disability but here I am being a Teacher, Doctor, Lawyer, etc.” The ADA gives me a voice. It means a lot to me and I want to spread that message to others.

Alan Cruz, DMC Staff

Sometimes living with a disability can be hard. The ADA protects me from being excluded from society. I matter. It gives me a voice to advocate for myself and find the support I need. The ADA is crucial to me. Thank you.

Anonymous, DMC Consumer

The ADA represents my ability to advocate for myself, educate others, and live my life equally to abled individuals.

The ADA represents the work of many advocates that came before me to ensure I had an equal chance at securing my civil and legal rights as a disabled individual.

The ADA has given me a voice to access my rights in higher ed, public transportation, medical settings, at the workplace, and to have those rights extend to my Guide Dog.

Erin Crutcher, DMC Board Member


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