ADA, the beautiful!
By Pinalben "Pinky"
A social worker
in my town asked me to write a speech about the benefits of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to present at a rally
celebrating its anniversary. When I discussed this with my wheelchair
using friends, some of their replies shocked me.
with me that while the ADA could use improvements, it has been very
useful for people with disabilities. Some, however, believed the ADA
had no positive effects. This struck me as ungrateful, but I realized
that they just didn't have experience living as a person with a
disability before the ADA.
The ADA has always been about equal
access for people with disabilities. It was signed into law July 26,
1990, with great support from both parties and the president. Before
the ADA, people with disabilities were not able to participate in the
community unless they were wealthy enough to have attendants around
all the time to lift them over stairs or barriers to get into
I was born in India. My family and I came to the
USA when I was four years old, but we had to return to India when I
was twelve. I had been diagnosed with Friedreich's ataxia, a genetic,
degenerative nerve disease.
Three years later, when I was
forced to drop out of school in India, I realized the importance of
the ADA. My disability had progressed and I couldn't walk with a
person holding me anymore. I needed to use a wheelchair. Most schools
where I lived were several stories high, without elevators or
The school I attended offered to have some janitors
lift and get me into the building, but transportation was still an
issue. Considering ramps and elevators were not available in public
places, accessible transportation was unthinkable. The school bus
driver complained about helping me in and out of the bus. He told my
parents that I didn’t need an education since I was "handicapped."
My parents considered private bus transportation, but it was too
Luckily, my family got a chance to come back to the
United States two years later. I started school again and eventually
finished high school. In 2007 I graduated with a journalism degree
from Murray state University!
I wouldn’t have been able to
continue my education if not for the ADA. Even though my voice is
weak, I can to communicate effectively and coherently as a result of
my studies. I am grateful to the leaders of the American’s With
Disabilities Coalition. Ed Roberts, Gini Laurie, and Justin Dart
pushed tirelessly for the ADA to be signed into law. As a result, I
can go to many more places--stores, restaurants, theaters, etc. in
I last visited India in 2004, and there was nothing
equivalent to the ADA yet. In a city famous for its malls, I had to
do my shopping from the car. There was only one store I could go in,
but I still had to be lifted over a step. That store had two floors,
and of course I didn't get to go upstairs.
required by the ADA make living with a disability easier, but there
are still more improvements to be made. Twenty-years after the ADA
went into effect, many buildings and public places remain
inaccessible. Some politicians still want to exempt private
businesses from ADA requirements. Many architects mistakenly think
putting grab bars in bathroom stalls or changing rooms for
able-bodied people makes them accessible. Those architects should
spend a couple days in a power wheelchair.
The ADA is not just
about wheelchair access. People who are blind or visually impaired
need computers with accessible programs, as well as accessible web
sites that work with screen reading and screen enlarging software.
People who are hearing impaired need things like flashing light
alarms in case of a fire.
The ADA is a Civil Rights law for
people with disabilities. We are a protected class--the largest
minority in this country. In its twenty years, some politicians, the
Supreme Court cases such as Brown versus the State of Tennessee and
others have tried to weaken the ADA.
Even though the ADA has
made it illegal to deny employment because of a disability,
discrimination is often difficult or impossible to prove. Countless
among the disabled population are educated and unwillingly
My friends who disagreed with me need to realize
that the ADA will never be perfect, especially since there are so
many different disabilities and unique circumstances. We need to keep
fighting for our rights and stand up to injustice and discrimination.
Equal rights and opportunity are indeed beautiful ideals, and the ADA
has made them easier to achieve.
"Pinky " Patel is a freelance writer who dreams of being a
novelist. She lives in Paducah, Kentucky with her parents and
has a degree in journalism from Murray State University. She is
a typical writer who enjoys reading, learning about world culture and
stringing words together on paper. Pinky is the only person in her
family to pursue writing. She uses Dragon Naturally Speaking to
assist with her writing, which can be frustrating but much faster
than typing manually. Check out her writing at: