As you are probably aware, the US Open Tennis Championships are currently taking place. But while TV and social media pages are filled with comments from the matches, I have yet to hear a single word about the Wheelchair Divisions.
I love Election Day. I have always thought that that special Tuesday should be declared a national holiday, allowing all Americans to spend the day wondering who and what inevitable changes will be brought on through our right to vote, and gearing up to do their part in achieving or maintaining all candidates’ promises for themselves and their communities. In light of the reelection of President Obama, the promises he has made to the disability community should be examined to provide an idea of what to expect and to fight for as a community over the next four years.
The President’s first term featured positive change for the community. He championed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which serves to decrease the cost of health care, denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and the dropping of coverage due to health care costs. He passed a mandate for the creation of 100,000 new jobs for individuals with disabilities in the government over a five-year period, which remains on course. Finally, he has maintained and strengthened his record of supporting and defending the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as enforcement of it. However, as even he has said, there remains a long way to go.
President Obama made countless promises to the disability community throughout both this and the 2008 campaign, from comments made by his proxy Ted Kennedy Jr. at the Disability Forum, to a campaign video directly addressing the disability community, to this inclusive statement made on election night:
“I believe we can keep the promise of our founding — the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or where you love — it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white, or Hispanic or Asian, or Native American, or young or old, or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight — you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”
I hope and challenge you to hold not only the President, but also your other federal, state, and local leaders accountable in insuring that every member of the disability community enjoys the same civil rights as every other member of the American community. Familiarize yourself with relevant issues that have been promised, as well as with any new legislation that arises relating to individuals with disabilities. Consisting of almost 60 million Americans, it makes up one of the largest underserved communities in the country, and deserves to be heard and given the same opportunities as every other individual and community.
For a full outline of President Obama’s position on disability issues, please explore the following links:
Everyone who has a website will want to find out how to prepare for the newest upcoming ADA regulations on accommodation for people with vision and hearing impairments. After March 15th Federal watchdogs will be checking employer websites (as a starting place) to assure that they are not violating accessibility standards for people with vision and hearing impairments. This is being done to ensure that PWD have equal access to employment in the community.
I recently came across an article which highlighted the newest product being released by a well-known appliance company. The company was introducing a freestanding range to its ‘growing ADA-compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act) appliance offerings.’ [i] ” I did not understand what the term “ADA-compliant” meant in the context of an appliance. In this case, “ADA-compliant” meant the product included features like upfront controls which can be accessed without reaching across burners. The controls are designed for one-handed operation and are positioned within a forward reach range of 15 and 48 inches.
With the new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility laws issued in January of this year, places such as the T.W. Patterson Sports Complex Dog Park is taking a pro-active approach. Without any complaints or lawsuits pending from community members, the park district felt the need to make the dog park accessible to everyone. Additionally, the new ADA accessibility laws are stricter. The city has also learned that there have been a number of facilities shut down in other cities due to litigation and the city wanted to avoid a similar action in Patterson.
Elsa Sallard was hired by Starbucks to work as a barista, but was fired soon afterwards. Starbucks is accused of violating federal law by denying reasonable accommodation to the barista with dwarfism and firing her because of her disability.
The township of Barnegat in New Jersey is probably one of few that has an Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Advisory Board. Barnegat, which has a population of about 20,308, is very proud of their ADA advisory board. The goal is to bring awareness of the advisory board itself and help members of the township.