Some of you may or may not know that this year marks a very special milestone for individuals with disabilities. It is the 30th anniversary of ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although I was not old enough to experience the start of ADA, I have been involved and been very blessed to be a part of ADA reform for the past 10 years. When you bring up the ADA in a conversation, most people think of wheelchairs and physical disabilities. I learned that the ADA covers both physical and mental disabilities, which is vital to Americans who live with these types of disabilities. It ensures we are members of society and live an independent life.
I remember the first time I was asked by the government to help with an ADA issue. I was 19 years old and had just transitioned from a Pride Go-Go Elite Traveler® scooter to a Quantum Q6 Edge® electric wheelchair. Since I was new to complex rehab, I didn’t have extensive knowledge about ADA. I thought I knew what ADA was, but man, was I wrong. I had a jaded notion that all the ADA did was build ramps and paint blue lines in front of businesses to allow for accessible parking. I learned over years by working with congressmen and senators in Washington D.C. on crucial legislation, that the ADA is a very complex and important set of laws for individuals with disabilities put in place to ensure equality for disabled individuals.
I have been very fortunate to have helped Congress and the Senate pass 14 legislature bills for Americans with disabilities. I have learned so much and have been able to help so many people, including myself because of the ADA. As I write this blog, I think about all the places I have been able to travel to and experience in my electric wheelchair because these laws are in place.
As big as the disability community may seem, it’s actually very small. Everyone knows everyone. Working for Quantum, I have met so many wheelchair users and have had the opportunity to speak to them about real-life issues they face in every day. I have taken some of these conversations and been able to apply them to specific bills when I have meetings with congressmen and senators. Or, if a lawmaker is having trouble understanding why a certain law is important, I can tell them about the wheelchair users and their experiences to help them better understand the issues that the disability community faces. It can be challenging for a lawmaker who has been healthy his whole life to understand why certain legislature is so important for the ADA, why funds are needed and how their decisions help better the lives of millions who live with disabilities.
The ADA also ensures fair-and-equal job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. If you have ever applied for a job at a business or company that has 15 employees or more, I almost guarantee you that the company has an equal opportunity employer or the sentence on their website or employment application that reads, “We do not discriminate against race, religion or disability.” This is a direct result of the ADA ensuring your application has the same advantage as everyone else. You can also thank the ADA for requiring all businesses in the United States to make their locations wheelchair accessible. If a business is not ADA compliant, legal action will be taken against that business to compel them to abide by the law.
Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act has given us so much, in a country that is always changing, there is still a lot of work to do. The fight never stops.
About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.