#HandsOffMyADA – A Member of the ADA Generation’s Take on ADA Notification Bills
November 30, 2018 | Ellie Stitzer, 2018 AAPD Summer Intern
My mentor at my university has a sticker in her office that says “The Americans with Disabilities Act – to boldly go where everyone else has gone before.” This really is what the ADA did: when it passed in 1990, it gave Americans with disabilities protection in their employment, public spaces, and public entities, which are the same protections that everyone else already had. I was born with a disability in 1996, six years after the passage of this historic civil rights legislation, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t use a wheelchair accessible entrance, accessible parking space, a curb cut, or a number of other accommodations provided to me because of the ADA. I can remember learning about the disability rights movement (on my own time, of course, since in my experience schools don’t talk about it) and realizing that I had really lucked out having been born after all that had happened. At the very least, I am thankful that I can say that my expectations and standards for accessibility are a lot higher than they were for people who lived in a pre-ADA America.
But even though the ADA was passed 28 years ago, not everyone has chosen to comply. Just a few days ago, my group of friends wanted to go out to a restaurant they’d heard about online, but when we showed up on the scene the building had a step to get in just BARELY high enough that my wheelchair couldn’t get over it. I run into these kind of access barriers constantly, and whenever it happens my friends and I are forced to be flexible and take our business to the nearest accessible alternative. But hey, at least there’s (usually) an alternative, right?
That’s why when I learned that there were multiple “ADA notification bills” floating around Congress this session, I felt like I had suddenly been time-warped back to before 1990, when people were still trying to prove that disability rights were civil rights. These bills, such as H.R. 620, which actually passed in the House of Representatives, would eliminate incentives for businesses, including large chain corporations, to proactively comply with the ADA and be accessible to those with disabilities. While H.R. 620 seems to have been stopped in the Senate for now, the fact that this bill was even introduced shows that, unfortunately, we are still at a place where we are having to fight to protect these very basic rights that businesses have now had, let me say it again, 28 years to comply with. The ADA laid the groundwork to make sure that my generation was able to grow up with the expectations we did. We need to focus on working towards complete access and strengthening the law, not weakening it like the congressmen and women who supported H.R. 620 seem to prefer.
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Ellie Stitzer is a 2018 AAPD Summer Intern. She interned at the Administration for Community Living in the U.S. Department of Health of Human Services.