This isn't just about "those people" it's about people we love, family members, friends, and maybe someday us.
Obstacles of every shape and size are an intrinsic part of every day living. As human beings we strive to overcome these obstacles. It makes us stronger and helps us grow. We construct buildings to shelter us, paths and roads to travel on, and conveniences of all kinds to make our lives easier.
Unfortunately, for most of our history we have focused on accommodating only those who are fully functioning. Those born disabled, or who became disabled by accident, war, illness or old age were not considered important enough to make the necessary accommodations to allow them to participate in every day life on the same terms as those with-ought disabilities.
Things have changed for the better. We are no longer willing to accept the concept of treating those with disabilities as second class citizens, not worthy of the necessary accommodations that will allow them to participate in normal everyday life. We have come to realize that people with disabilities need and deserve to be given the same rights and access to life as those without disabilities, and that having a disability does not mean a person can’t work or contribute to society in a meaningful way.
We have made improvements. Where there were steps, we now include ramps. Where there were once only seats, we now include spaces for those in wheel chairs. When we have public assemblies we make accommodations for those who are hard of hearing. For those who are blind we provide Braille or talking computers. Reasonable accommodations are made for individuals with mental intellectual and developmental disability. We have accessible trails in our parks, and picnic benches that accommodate wheel chairs. We have decided that all people have equal rights to life, and all barriers to such must be removed.
This is what the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created for and what the East End Disabilities Group represents.
Passage of the ADA in 1990 was not the result of people coming together saying it was the right thing to do. No, it was a battle from the very beginning. The disabled began speaking up and demanding the same rights that abled bodied folks had. Asking and pleading didn’t work. Using non-violent tactics of the civil rights movement, the disabled organized protests throughout the country. In some cases committing civil disobedience, putting themselves – their very lives on the line by blocking buses in their wheel chairs to get their point across.
The publicity of these demonstrations across our nation found strong support from many non-disabled people who joined the movement. Friends, family, churches and members of the community joined together to raise the consciousness of millions of Americans. The majority agreed that it was unjust to keep people out of society because of a disability… not being able to travel, work, or shop where they wanted, eat at a restaurant, or even attend a movie or a ball game.
The pressure to pass legislation came from all quarters of our society. Citizens, religious leaders, politicians from both sides of the isle embraced the ideals represented by the ADA. Everyone had a relative who was needing a walker or wheelchair, or knew someone who was disabled, and with old age, we all become disabled at some point in our lives. The ADA cut across all boundaries that separated us as people, and brought us together as one.
The movement took off in the late 1960’s and thirty- one years later the whole country was ready to change and make this nation of ours completely accessible for all its citizens.