The Power of the ADA

Michael holding his UNIQUE Editorial Board Plaque

Michael holding his UNIQUE Editorial Board Plaque

By Contributing Writer: Michael Theobald

This year, the Americans with Disabilities Act is celebrating its 23rd year of existence. I have used a wheelchair for twelve of them, and I couldn’t imagine the country without the ADA compliance rules.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal legislation that protects the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA addresses the barriers and discrimination that people with disabilities have traditionally faced.

The ADA addresses the widespread exclusions of people with disabilities from the routine activities of everyday life. Public accommodations to increase accessibility include: ramps, railings, stair lifts, wider doors, automatic door openers, parking spots, auxiliary aides for those with vision, hearing or speech impairments, accommodation of guide dogs and service animals, just to name a few.

The interesting thing about making stores, restaurants, and other public buildings accessible is that most people other than the people that use them don’t even notice that these accommodations exist.

When I first started using a wheelchair I began to notice all the non-accessible buildings. I needed to remember the layouts of buildings because I couldn’t always enter and leave the same way as everyone else. I quickly began to realize that no one else did that unless they were also in a wheelchair.

When I became a junior in college, a friend of mine who was also in a wheelchair taught me that if I have an accessibility problem I should speak up, because I have the power of the ADA behind me.