July 26, 2011

What Equality Looks Like for Over 54 Million Americans: Celebrating the ADA Today

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Our guest blogger today is Claire Trivedi, HUD’s Office of Housing, Advocates for HUD Employees with Disabilities (AHED) Steering Committee Member

Imagine that today was like any other typical DC day.  You got up, got ready and headed to the Metro for your commute.   The escalator was broken so you took an elevator to your platform.  When you exited the Metro at your final stop, you went into a Starbucks and bought a coffee before starting the workday.  Once you get to work, you proceeded up to your office.  Your telework agreement was approved and waiting in your inbox so you won’t have to worry about the commute in inclement months and a new trackball mouse arrived to help with recent wrist pain.   You have lots of data to analyze today in many different electronic systems; you have a trip to a faraway place to plan and you have a couple of conference calls.  After work, you might hit the gym or catch the Circulator to happy hour or a shuttle to a show at the Kennedy Center with friends.  You use your iphone to text them on your way.  If you work outside of DC, think about what your day is like.  How many of these activities would you be able to do if you had a disability?  What if you were Deaf or hard of hearing or used a wheelchair for your back injury? What if you have diabetes or chronic mental illness, or if you were Blind? The answer, regardless of disability is, all of them.  You can participate in activities that are normal in our society for many reasons, one of those being the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

July 26, 2011 is the 21st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  The ADA ensures legal protection for people with disabilities (over 54 million Americans) in employment, when using public services, when in public places operated by private entities and with telecommunications.  Essentially, the ADA demands the same access for people with disabilities to services, goods, education and entertainment that others access in everyday life.  These rights were established by law for a growing population of Americans with disabilities including veterans, youth, seniors and people of many diverse backgrounds and orientations only 21 short years ago.

The ADA of 1990 and ADA amendments of 2008 are two steps in the right direction to equality; however people with disabilities still have many barriers to participation in everyday activities.  Attitudinal barriers are invisible and challenging.  When writing the ADA, Congress found, that “Physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society, yet many people with physical or mental disabilities have been precluded from doing so because of discrimination; others who have a record of a disability or are regarded as having a disability also have been subjected to discrimination.” (§ 12101. Findings and purpose) Does your mindset get in the way of equality?   If you have questions about how people with disabilities might be able to participate in society, please watch and share this video.  You can make an effort toward equal access by including someone with a disability in your workplace.  To find out more about hiring qualified people with disabilities, download the free Employer’s Field Guide.  We all benefit when everyone in our society is offered the chance to reach their full potential, through access to opportunities in work and in daily activities.

Access to work and daily activities is not very useful if you don’t have a home, and HUD helps ensure equality in this realm.  John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity states, “The joint goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act–to provide access at home, at work, and in public –are unmet if public areas are accessible but homes are not.”  HUD has ADA responsibilities for enforcement, and also enforces Fair Housing laws to help provide equal opportunity for people with disabilities.  After all, as Abraham Lincoln once said “Laws without enforcement are just good advice.”  Through enforcement of civil rights laws like the ADA, work, public life and home are more accessible to all Americans.

As you go about your typical daily activities entering stores and offices, planning travel, going to work, using your Smartphone or enjoying dinner and a movie, think about how people with disabilities would also be able to participate in these activities.  Enjoy your day and think about what opportunities are available to you.  You are fortunate, as so many people may have only received the same rights 21 years ago today.  If you know someone with a disability, celebrate with them today!

3 Responses to What Equality Looks Like for Over 54 Million Americans: Celebrating the ADA Today

  1. Thank you for this! I am the Chair of the Utah State Democratic Party Disability Caucus. Our business caters to folks with disabilities and seniors.

    Your post is getting forwarded to everyone I know. And, of course you will get the credit, I am also making it a note on my Facebook page…and the Utah Disability Caucus page.

    I encourage folks with disabilities, and those who care about them, to celebrate every day; and remember what life was like before ADA.

    • Sally, is that you – vocalist?

      I’m retiring from music…have done a lot since we spoke some 6.5 years ago (yet never met)!

      Hope things stabilize and improve for you…

      I’ll be playing in the Shirley area on Sept 17th, I believe…contact me if interested!

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