"Together We'll Rise"

By Laura Deck, posted on

Perspectives from the Benetech community on the ADA 30th anniversary

Benetech is proud to support the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 30th Anniversary. On July 26th we celebrate this monumental civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, and transportation. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

We asked some members of the Benetech community to share their perspectives on the impact of the ADA in a series of upcoming blogs.

A compilation of 12 photos of people with disabilities and 6 book covers of memoirs by 6 of the authors..

An Anthem for the ADA Anniversary

By Katherine Schneider (with homage to Maya Angelou)

You can talk about me instead of to me.

You can question my right to be.

You can pity and disrespect me

And ignore my needs — “I didn’t see.”

And still I’ll rise.

I’m your grandmother who doesn’t hear.

I’m your friend living with anxiety and fear.

I’m your grandpa who has “lost his mind”

Or his wife who is going blind.

And still we’ll rise.

We’re one out of five

Not dead yet—still alive!

Our needs aren’t special—they just are.

A parking space that’s not too far,

A friend who listens even if it takes longer,

And fights for access with us—together we’re stronger.

And still we’ll rise.

We won’t stop until all can play,

Work, love and pray in whatever way.

So celebrate with us. Because of the ADA

And caring people, we can say

Together we’ll all rise!

Katherine Schneider is a retired clinical psychologist and author who lives with her guide dog in Eau Claire, WI. Learn more: Author is Champion for Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Books

The ADA Helps Me Live, Work, and Play as a Blind Woman

When the ADA was signed into law it opened the door to more opportunities, fuller inclusion into mainstream society, and more equal access. All of this rings true in my life as a person who lost her vision after the ADA was passed. It has helped me to live a fuller life, have a rewarding career, and access entertainment.

The ADA has helped me to live.

I live an independent life because of the ADA. I manage my own finances, pay bills, and access my money through accessible banking, investments, and credit card websites. The ADA has helped me to vote independently for the last 17 years by using an accessible voting machine. I travel with confidence and freedom on buses, airplanes, and cruise ships all due to the ADA.

The ADA helps me to work.

When I first became blind I was just entering the workforce. My employer was familiar with the ADA and provided work accommodations such as a CCTV, hand-held magnifiers, and screen reading software. I was able to maintain employment and since that time at every job I have received the necessary work accommodations. Now, I am a freelance writer and the ADA has helped me to create an accessible website and find job opportunities online.

The ADA helps me to play.

One of my favorite forms of entertainment is watching a movie. A fast-paced action, suspense thriller, a funny comedy, a classic animation, a gory horror or a sappy romcom—I love them all! But the funny thing is that I didn’t really get into movies until I went blind and couldn’t see the screen. Then I really didn’t get into movies until audio descriptions became readily available. The ADA requires that movie theaters provide audio descriptions to blind and visually impaired people so now I can watch the latest blockbuster.

I am thankful for how this law helps me live, work and play. As we honor this holiday, I encourage you to reflect on how the ADA has changed your life or people you know with disabilities.

Empish Thomas is a freelance journalist, blogger, and consultant based in Georgia.

Employment Protection under the ADA Can Go Even Further

The ADA has radically transformed and broadened my access to education and thus employment. By legally mandating and providing resources for non-print materials and other essential accommodations, the ADA has made it possible for me to graduate from high school, college, and graduate school and now teach at the university level.

We need to continue to push for increased employment protections under the ADA. It is not enough for people to be able to have a job. We should ensure people are able to get the accommodations they need to thrive in all sectors where their talents and work are needed and will edify the broader community.

Junia Howell, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. Read Junia’s story: I Haven’t Overcome My Dyslexia. I’m Harnessing It.

Keep the ADA Strong for the Next 30 Years

While we celebrate the impact of the ADA today, there is more work to be done in disability rights. In celebration of the 30 years of ADA, we are raising $30,000 to protect and advance the rights of people with disabilities.

Join us in our commemoration of the ADA and the long journey ahead to continue to advance and protect the rights of people with disabilities. Our 30 for 30 action page highlights the ways that you can learn, share your story, and support the movement.

This blog is the first in a series of blogs highlighting perspectives from the Benetech community on the ADA. Read the second and third installments: ADA @ 30: Two Voices on Accomplishments and Shortfalls and ADA @ 30: Perspectives on the Past, Present, and Future