The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. This act gave equal rights to all of us, whether we have a disability or not, but the ADA does not go far enough. For example, I have friends that are wheelchair users who are still unable to access some businesses and restaurants. Another obstacle that affects them are restroom doors that are not wide enough. I have applied for positions in the past, and I believe I was not considered because I have Down Syndrome.
We want to have the same public accommodations, transportation and employment opportunities as everyone.
The ADA has been in effect since I was three years old, so I have pretty much lived with it all my life. It has helped me in my education and in my employment. I feel very fortunate to have a career that I love, where I am valued and am being paid a fair wage. However, I still see and experience discrimination.
I worked very hard to get my driver’s license. It took me quite a few road tests before I passed. I felt on some of them the preconceived notion of Down syndrome contributed to my not passing. Don’t get me wrong, I did deserve to fail a couple. (I won’t talk about going down the one-way street the wrong way or missing the second stop sign of the two right in a row.) On my final test, I decided to try something different, so I wore sunglasses to hide my tell-tale eyes. Guess what, I did well, and I passed.
A humorous story, my parents and I laugh about was the night a few years ago that we ate at a local restaurant. As we were being seated by the hostess, she asked me if I would like crayons and a coloring book. I said, “no thanks, but would love if you will bring me glass of red wine.”
Something else that I find really bothers me, is when people speak to my parents, or someone I am with, rather than speaking to me because they think I am unable to converse with them. Please talk to us first. If we are unable to answer, someone else will, but please give us the courtesy of addressing us before assuming our capabilities.
I hope that in my position, along with my colleagues, that we can help make changes so that everyone that is differently abled can have a chance at the American Dream. Happy 30th anniversary to the Americans with Disabilities Act. We will strive to make each anniversary better than before by advocating and passing more laws that will improve our lives.