In July 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was officially signed into law. I was born in 2006, so I don’t know what it was like to grow up in a country where disabled people like me don’t have equal rights. I have traveled abroad, however, to places that don’t have laws like the ADA, so I do have some idea of what it must have been like here in the U.S. before 1990.
I remember a cruise my family went on when I was little. The ship was enormous but had thick carpets in the hallways where all the cabins were located. It was almost impossible for me to push my own manual wheelchair on these carpets after wearing myself out in the pool. My parents would hold my hands and pull me along until we got close to our cabin. I probably wasn’t as upset about it as I should have been because I was a little kid. I knew my parents were with me to come up with a solution. If I had been alone, I would have been stuck in the middle of the halls, either taking breaks every so often to regain my strength or giving up and calling my parents to come get me. The main reason I wasn’t upset about the inaccessibility was because the carpet, while annoying, had images of little red and blue fishes swimming in opposite directions, indicating which was the front and back of the ship. How did that make it any better? I don’t know!
There was another time when we were in a foreign country, though I can’t remember where we were. There was a long set of steps that we needed to go down. There was no other way to get to our destination and it wasn’t your typical 30 or so steps down either. No, it was around 100 steps just to reach the bottom. My dad offered to carry me down and then go back up for my wheelchair, but I decided it would be more fun to crabwalk the entire way down myself. So that’s what I did, and my dad walked ahead of me carrying my wheelchair. I was really proud of myself when I reached the bottom.
Looking back on these family vacations, I realize how inconvenient certain aspects of touring and traveling were without the ADA. I’ve only now realized how unfair those places were for the disabled people who live there. I’m happy and grateful that I can live an independent life due to the ADA and that I don’t have to fight for equal rights just because I was born different. I’m not saying that everywhere I go in the U.S. is always perfectly accessible, but I can say from personal experience that it’s a lot better here than most other places. So, happy anniversary of the ADA!
About Maddie Kasten: Maddie is a Q Roll Model for Quantum Rehab. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and enjoys participating in adaptive sports, playing video games and watching anime. Click here to learn more about Maddie.