The SourceAmerica network reflects on and celebrates ADA at 30
This month, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) commemorates 30 years of leveling the playing field for people with disabilities. This landmark legislation has paved the path for this essential part of our workforce since July 26, 1990. SourceAmerica asked its network of over 700 nonprofit agencies to share memories of how the ADA changed the landscape for people with disabilities and how the law has made a difference.
Member Nonprofit Agency: The Corporate Source
Location: New York
The influence that the ADA has had on the lives of people with disabilities is monumental. Michael Kramer, CEO of The Corporate Source, was asked about what he most remembers about the ADA becoming the law of the land. "I remember when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed. It was a time of hope, optimism, and a promise for the future. The ADA brought tangible improvements such as architectural modifications to make office buildings more accessible, curb cuts allowing independent access when crossing streets, and levered handles allowing doors with weighted pressure to open easily without a firm grip. But most importantly the ADA provided an inroad towards employment equity."
Society as a whole has benefited from some of the ADA’s finer points. The curb cuts on a street corner have been welcomed for decades by parents pushing toddlers in strollers. The levered handles have provided relief to those who have had their hands full with multiple bags from a grocery store run. As Kramer points out, “We take these architectural changes for granted today and are often unaware of what precipitated the change – the ADA."
Member Nonprofit Agency: Transylvania Vocational Services
Location: North Carolina
Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) has been committed to employing and supporting adults with disabilities for over 50 years. Nancy Stricker, retired TVS CEO and a current TVS board member, echoes the sentiments about the curb cuts making sidewalks accessible. “I remember when our city made sidewalks accessible at pedestrian crossings. After the curbs were modified, a person in a wheelchair could go from the courthouse to the post office on their own. This simple change in the way sidewalks were designed gave independence to individuals who needed a wheelchair. We learned that independence and dignity go hand in hand.”
Carla Hill has served as the TVS program director for the last 14 years has a different perspective on the ADA. "Equal opportunity - this is what the Americans with Disabilities Act means to me. It guarantees that any citizen with a disability has the same opportunity to participate in mainstream America as any citizen without a disability. It is good to be reminded that not so long ago this was not the case."
Hill’s sentiment rings true in 2020, as people with disabilities have been called upon during the COVID-19 pandemic to play critical roles as members of the essential workforce. They stepped up to the plate and performed meaningful work, proving that America needs people with disabilities for our economy to function as we navigate through the next phase of the pandemic.
Member Nonprofit Agency: Peckham Industries
"The birth of the Americans with Disabilities act on July 26, 1990, provided hope of inclusion and equity for people with disabilities," said Stacey Locke, self-advocacy coordinator at Peckham Industries in Michigan. After 30 years, however, "We are no longer patting ourselves on the back for advocating for people with disabilities. Today, we are encouraging people with disabilities to be their own self-advocates, to use their own voices, to use their ideas of improvements and solutions."
As we collectively commemorate 30 years of ADA impacting millions of lives, SourceAmerica and its network are focused on emphasizing the courage, determination, motivation, and expertise of our nation’s essential workforce.
Michael Kramer's final thoughts are cautionary, noting that, "ADA's promise and hope for equal employment is still an aspirational ideal. In a time when we are pausing as a society and looking at the equality that still needs to be achieved, let us remember the promise of this legislation and continue our efforts to attain employment equity for people with disabilities."
For additional information about the ADA and the 30th Anniversary of its passage, please visit https://www.adaanniversary.org/. For more information about SourceAmerica, please reach out to email@example.com.