FRAMINGHAM – Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I am proud to support this important civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life including jobs, schools, transportation in all public and private places that are open to the general public.
The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
I am equally as proud to be a Disability Commissioner in Framingham. It means that I can advocate and support families or individuals whose needs have not been met, discriminated against, or have not part of a conversation. I am able to educate the public about rules and regulations regarding disabilities. I am able to advocate for inclusionary programming in our city. There is nothing more gratifying to me than seeing someone happy and smiling from being offered access and inclusion into an activity they normally couldn’t participate in. When the commission approved funding for the accessible skating program in April 2019, it gave me so much joy to watch children and emerging adults access an activity they normally would have been left out of.
I was nearing my twentieth birthday when this landmark legislation was signed into law by President George Bush. In the past 30 years since we have had this civil rights law in place we have accomplished a lot as a nation such as: closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing, braille installed in public buildings, architectural standards have been adjusted, access ramps and lifts have been installed for wheelchair and scooter use, as well as easy reach access buttons for doors, curb cuts and much more. While we have accomplished so much, we can’t lose sight of how much more work still needs to be done.
The Americans with Disability Act is much more than the reasons I stated above… It is the consideration that is being given to the special needs community that in the past has been overlooked or marginalized.
Everyone has a different definition of the word disability. To some it is someone who is wheelchair bound and to others it is someone who can’t do what others find simple. There is no right or wrong answer.
As a non disabled person we often take for granted the smaller things in life that many don’t give a thought to, such as going to purchase basic necessities, independence in living, communication and being able to read a basic street sign or ingredient list. This alone should give many the reason to pause and reflect about the significance of the day.
Thank you to the heroes who have ever taken the time to understand a perspective of the differently abled and reached out to help or show solidarity.
Thanks to the ADA, we are all able to live happier and more inclusive lives.