Now folks, before you start hating on me, realize that this is coming from MY experience and MY perspective. I certainly don't want to minimize YOUR lived experience, so if, as I've seen from the numerous #becauseoftheADA Facebook and Twitter posts, you've benefitted from the ADA, that is wonderful!
Again, before you start hating, realize that I busted my butt along with other disbility rights activists for passage of the ADA, culminating in that famous crawl up the steps of the US Capitol and the arrest of 104 ADAPT members in the Capitol Rotunda. I was arrestee number 81, one of the folks in the inner ring of people who had linked arms and handcuffed and chained ourselves together on the floor.
Needless to say, I'm grateful for the existence of the ADA and happy that there is now a generation of young folks with disabilities who don't know a world without it. Still, there is far too much work to be done to rest on our laurels. I can't sit easy and celebrate knowing that there are thousands upon thousands of public places that are not accessible when, for little or nothing, access can be readily achieved. How can I celebrate when the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is greater than all other groups combined?
Here's some more stuff that's messed up about the ADA:
The ADA is an unfunded mandate.
If the ADA were properly funded, there could be money available for a number of things, including education of people whose job involves working with, or accessing services for people with disabilities, such as social workers, vocational rehabilitation counselors and others. The funds could also be used to further educate judges, attorneys and those in the criminal justice system on the needs and rights of people with disabilities in their charge. Another excellent use of the “ADA money” could be to fund small businesses that would find it hard or impossible to make their buildings accessible.
The ADA is not strictly enforced.
With stronger enforcements such as higher and consistently applied fines, and the statutory cap on compensatory and punitive damages toward noncompliant businesses and employers being increased, along with the streamlining of the complaint and litigation process, the ADA would be taken far more seriously than it is.
The ADA does not require churches to be wheelchair accessible.
Yes, I know that churches and other places of worship are exempt, but since they are often used for public meetings and as polling places, primarily because the space can be used for free, or for a very small fee, they should be required to be accessible.
That's just some of it. I could go on and on...
Look, folks, I'm not saying don't celebrate ADA Day. I'm just saying that 24 years on, we should be a lot further on than we are. Rolling around doing the happy dance and not acknowledging this is disinginuous, at best. There is lots of work to be done. Frankly, though, I'm tired of all of the hard work being done by folks with disabilities. It's time for our nondisabled allies to join us in changing the public's perception of our community. As long as the public continues to believe all of the negative stereotypes and perceptions about us, including the "better dead than disabled" rhetoric, we'll be continuing at a snail's pace, having the same complaints in 2039.