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Happy 30 Years American Disabilities Act

I missed a birthday yesterday. It’s an important one so I will send a cake.

30 years ago the American Disabilities Act was passed. 30 years ago a law was created stating that you could not discriminate against those who had epilepsy, you could not refuse to serve someone in a wheel chair, you could not deny employment to someone because they had a hearing aid.

What is crazy to me is that before 1990 you could.

I was 19 in 1990. Selfishly, I cannot say I remember this historic date. And as a somewhat blue leaning voter…….I say thank you George H.W Bush. Good-on-ya.

This was the Capital Crawl on March 13, 1990. They could not walk, so they climbed up the Capital stairs.

Crawled. Because their legs did not work. And because their legs did not work, they faced discrimination……only 30 years ago.

Crawled. Because there was no other way up.

Four months later, Bush signed the ADA act, a bill written by Tony Coelho, a California Democrat who suffered a head injury at 16 that evolved into Epilepsy. In college, when he wanted to become a priest, he was told he could not because according to Canon Law, people with Epilepsy were possessed by the Devil.

This was in 1960. Apparently 60 years ago you could still be possessed by the devil.

30 years ago, I had no idea the impact this law would make on my life. I will always be grateful for ramps, accessible buildings, wide doors, individualized services vs institutionalization, access to education……my ADA friends are nodding their head and saying ‘yes…..but we have such a long way to go’

As a mama who changed her daughter on the floor of a non ADA accessible bathroom, yes, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

You can have 1,000 ramps but you cannot change attitudes…..or those who still park in handicapped spots 😦 And today, in hearing a Westminster Colorado teacher refer to his special needs students as ‘retarded’, yes we have a long way to go.

And it goes without saying that those in undeserved communities struggle for these ADA rights more than anyone.

But despite the work that needs to be done, despite partisan conflicts over funding and the fight that parents face every year, with every IEP, there was once upon a time when we all came together and did good.

It wasn’t that long ago.

And it should be celebrated…..

Happy Birthday American Disabilities Act. Thank you for paving the way.

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