How the ADA changed my life: My coworkers had to carry me up stairs to work

fred-maahs-400x264In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) we’re devoting these next two weeks to guest posts by Easter Seals friends and staff members about how the 1995 passage of the ADA has changed their lives. Here’s one by Fred Maahs, Senior Director of Community Investment and National Partnerships at Comcast Corporation and Vice President of the Comcast Foundation.

by Fred Maahs

I was 18 years old on July 26, 1990, the day that the Americans Disabilities Act was signed into law. It was a day of celebration for me, and now, looking back 25 years later, I realize how much the ADA has changed the way I’m able to face life challenges.

The passing of the ADA was a major leap forward in the movement to assure the civil rights of all people. The Americans with Disabilities Act made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability. Before the Act passed, it was rare to see a person with a disability out in the community. Afterward, it was clear that somebody was finally paying attention.

The ADA made such a huge impact on people with disabilities like me. As I said earlier, I was 18 when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. I’d been paralyzed in a swimming accident ten years before that, so I spent a decade adjusting to life with a disability during a time when people who used wheelchairs were unable to access most public buildings, public transportation, educational opportunities and employment.

One example: my first job was on the second floor of a two story building with no elevator. Each day, my coworkers would have to carry me — wheelchair and all — upstairs to work. Before the ADA, there was little support and accessibility for people with disabilities, but with the help of organizations like Easter Seals, the ADA was signed and it gave persons with disabilities a voice.

Easter Seals played a major role in developing and enacting the ADA, and I speak first hand when I say Easter Seals offers guidance, support and inspiration to people with disabilities. Easter Seals is a pioneer in opening pathways for all of us as we face new life challenges, wherever in life we may be.

comcast_292Today, I’m the Senior Director of Community Investment and National Partnerships at Comcast’s corporate headquarters in Philadelphia as well as the Vice President of the Comcast Foundation. The passing of the ADA has allowed me to live, learn, work and play in my community as well as reach out to others with disabilities.

To date, the Comcast Foundation Assistive Technology Fund at Easter Seals has helped an estimated 25,000 children and adults with disabilities access assistive technology. I’m proud to continue advancing the spirit of the ADA through my work with Comcast and volunteer leadership efforts with Easter Seals.

There’s still a lot of work to be done with the ADA, and, just like a generation ago, we are taking action to make all things accessible for people with disabilities. Join the movement!


 

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