Sunday, July 26, 2020

Happy 30th Birthday, ADA!

I never paid attention to door size before 1997.

I never checked for a ramp. I didn't look at sidewalks and wonder at their width.

I didn't have to.

But Benjamin, Mason, and Claire were born in April of that year and all of that changed immediately.

The triplet stroller only fit through the widest of doors. 

The triplet stroller couldn't be bumped up a curb easily -- or at all -- because of the bulky design needed to hold all three of my bitty babies.

And if the sidewalk wasn't wide enough -- or if the snow wasn't completely shoveled off the sidewalk -- the triplet stroller couldn't pass. 

And all of this was BEFORE we learned wheelchairs would be a part of our future.

We quickly learned to adapt. We bought a twin side-by-side stroller and the boys rode there. Claire was the smallest, and so I carried her in a baby carrier, or if Wade was with me, she could ride in a single stroller. Doors were much easier to navigate and I could pop that twin stroller up a curb with one hand while holding Claire. 

And so it would be 2002 before I understood fully the importance of July 26, 1990. The Americans with Disabilities Act would be a full 12 years old.

For the last 18 years, our lives -- all of our lives -- have been directly affected by the response of restaurants, businesses, schools, churches, parks to the Act signed 30 years ago today. We have witnessed responses that go over and beyond the minimal required. We have witnessed responses that blatantly ignore the act. We have witnessed responses where a simple nudge spurs compliance.

We visited a church when the triplets were seven and we were still learning to navigate and balance our rights with our needs. We pulled into the parking lot and were met with an entire row of parking spaces designated for "Families with Special Needs Children." We felt like the congregation was greeting us with a warm embracing welcome.

We were traveling a few years later and took the kids for ice cream at a highly-lauded local establishment. There was no way for Benjamin to get on the sidewalk to get in the door. I was certain we were missing the access. I went in and asked for assistance. The young employees stared at me with empty eyes. They offered no assistance. They literally just stared at me.

Years later Benjamin found a college that welcomed him with open arms. The school had ramp access from the parking lot to the sidewalks all over campus. However, early in his first semester, he was blocked from the ramp multiple times by delivery vehicles parking in the accessible loading zone. When the president of Belhaven learned this was a problem, he had the maintenance staff repaint every single zone with DO NOT PARK! We never had the problem again.

The ADA is 30 years old today. 

My boys are college graduates. They were able to do that thanks to the ADA.

Mason is in graduate school, he teaches, he goes on archaeological digs, and he writes papers -- book chapters even! ADA made that possible.

Before COVID, my family regularly enjoyed dinner out. ADA ensures we can do that.

We love going to the movie and the theatre -- oh please let us go back to theaters soon -- all because of ADA.

And so today, we celebrate 30 years of access. Today we celebrate 30 years of civil rights for those affected by disabilities. Today, we are thankful for the men and women who fought for the legislation that was signed on July 26, 1990.

But tomorrow, well, tomorrow, we have to get back to work. Benjamin will continue his work to ensure voting rights for all. We will keep campaigning for those who value people with disabilities. We will continue campaigning against those who ridicule the disabled. We will keep working for better access, for more access. We will keep shouting our story, we will keep trying to spread hope. We will keep trying to spread education and awareness. 

Tomorrow, we will get back to work.

Carol - The Blessings Counter