What Life Is Like 28 Years After the Americans With Disabilities Act

Beth touching the museum signThe 28th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is this Thursday, July 26. My husband Mike and I will be celebrating with a visit to see our son at his group home in Wisconsin. Gus moved away from home when he was 16 years old — he was born with significant physical and developmental disabilities. He can propel his own wheelchair, but when we take him for walks from his group home to the park, his dad supplies the horsepower. I hold Mike’s arm as he pushes Gus’ wheelchair up the ramps to the sidewalks, and once we’re in the park we head to the swing — it’s especially suited for wheelchair use. Our visits are happy and uneventful, and on the drive back to our hotel room, we often talk about how grateful we are that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law when it was, back in 1990.

My Seeing Eye dog Whitney stays in our hotel room while we visit with Gus. She is jealous of (or unnerved by) our son — probably a little of both. When we get back to our room, I buckle on her harness, give her the “Forward!” command and she guides me to the elevator. We’re heading to the lobby, and hearing the bell ding twice tells me the elevator that’s opening will be going down — one ring means up. I command, “Whitney, forward!” My eight-year-old Golden Retriever/Yellow Labrador cross leads me in. “Whitney, sit!” She sits quietly at my feet. Braille labeling tells me which button to press for “lobby” and we’re on our way.

Downstairs, Whitney leads me to the handicapped-accessible door (revolving doors can be difficult) and we’re off to a nearby tree where she can “empty.” Back inside, I listen for music — we’re meeting Mike at the jazz bar for a nightcap and live music before heading to bed. No one there questions my having a guide dog with me, and we enjoy the music and banter. On this weekend’s trip, we’ll raise a glass to The hard work so many disability advocates put into getting this bill passed, and to President George H. Bush for signing it into law in 1990. The Americans with Disabilities Act has changed a lot of lives — for the better.


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