Life Before the ADA

The ADA turned 29 last week. These are things that people thought were acceptable before the ADA passed.

This is what my life USED to be like

No curb cuts

No trips to the beach

Now, back in my summer home in Canada, I am a short distance from one of the nicest beaches in North America complete with ramps and a beach wheelchair.

No movies

I was hailed as a hero in the children’s ward when I managed to smuggle in a shaky, hand-held bootleg recordings of Star Wars (Episodes 4, 5 and 6 of course) on VHS. I think it cost me $75 which was a small fortune at the time, literally 30 hours of part time work cutting apricots at Mariani’s at minimum wage.

Lack of Accessible Restrooms

Second floor classrooms and lockers

When I moved into walking casts, I lost my balance using crutches on the stairs during an earthquake and broke my ankle for the umpteenth time. My high school experience was so miserable that I didn’t set foot in it after I dropped out until the memorial service for my favorite teacher three years ago where I noted that curb cuts and elevators now finally existed.

Lack of meaningful work opportunities

The unemployment situation for people with disabilities is one of things that has not improved substantially since the ADA was enacted. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is still over 2.5X higher than that for people without disabilities. Discrimination in the education setting leads to fewer people with disabilities graduating from high school, and fewer people going to or graduating from college. Entry level jobs such as Starbucks or McDonald’s are not widely available for someone who is blind or has autism or mobility issues. Meanwhile, it is still legal in many places to pay below minimum wage in “sheltered workshop” settings.

Being uninsurable

Now with the Affordable Care Act, people with disabilities can stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26, then move over to Medicaid (if they are unemployed) or a state exchange plan. It’s expensive, but it beats going bankrupt due to an ER visit or unexpected surgery.

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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