National Disability Independence Day, which commemorates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is July 26th. The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, opening the door and breaking down barriers that individuals with disabilities faced every day. This is a day to honor an act that has enabled those with disabilities to gain tools for daily life.
The ADA is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life; this includes jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public. The law provides individuals with disabilities with protections similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. This day not only celebrates the anniversary of the ADA — it also serves several other purposes.
First, the law broke down barriers individuals with disabilities faced every day. Over time, common barriers, such as narrow doorways and small bathroom stalls, were phased out and replaced with infrastructure accessible to wheelchairs. Other examples include braille signs, and crosswalks for the vision impaired. These changes improved mobility and safety.
The journey has been long for those with invisible disabilities. Invisible disabilities can include many different diagnoses, such as mental disorders, cognitive dysfunctions, chronic pain, etc. It has taken great advocacy, along with the courage of trail blazers, to permit the world to see beyond the veil into this world.
It took years of advocacy until 1990 to pass a law regarding disabilities. The ADA made opportunities possible for those with disabilities to have access and rights. Still, for those with invisible disabilities, it is taking longer to have acceptance and opportunities. Often, organizations and communities, are striving to move towards change.
As a patient driven organization, MassBio recognizes and values the abilities, skills, and talents that individuals with disabilities bring to the workplace, and the benefits of disability inclusion. To that end, we have put together a Workplace Accessibility Guide where we discuss the background on the issue; the benefits for employers who hire people with disabilities; how Human Resources can foster the hiring, accommodation and retention of employees who have disabilities; and the costs of making workplaces accessible for such employees.
The ADA leads us here, and it keeps us moving forward, but we’re still working toward reaching that destination of fair and equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Learn more about the ADA here.
- Podcast: Disability Matters – episodes on ADA
- Podcast: Access and Opportunity with Carla Harris
- YouTube Video: CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION
- Temple Grandin Ted Talk
- Born at the Right Time by Ron McCallum
Ron McCallum has been blind from birth. When he was a child, many blind people spent their lives sheltered, but Ron’s mother had other ideas for her son. She insisted on treating him as normally as possible. Ron recounts his social awkwardness and physical mishaps and shares his early fears that he might never manage to have a proper career, find love or become a parent. He has achieved all this and more, becoming a professor of law at a prestigious university and committee chair at the UN.
- If at Birth You Don’t Succeed by Zach Anner
Comedian Zach Anner entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. But he lives by the mantra: when life gives you a wheelchair, make lemonade. Whether recounting a valiant childhood attempt to woo Cindy Crawford, encounters with zealous faith healers, or the time he crapped his pants mere feet from Dr. Phil, Zach shares his fumbles with unflinching honesty and characteristic charm. If at Birth is a hilarious memoir about finding your passion and your path even when it’s paved with epic misadventure.
- The Trouble with Illness by Julia Segal
This book explores the effects a challenging disability or illness can have on the mind and personal relationships, and how friends, family and professionals can help. Illness or disability can isolate people. Friends and family can find themselves saying the wrong thing or awkwardly avoiding topics as a result. The insights and advice offered in this book can help children and adolescents overcome anxiousness caused by a parent’s condition, improve communication between partners and family members, and increase friends’ awareness of how their disabled friend feels about their situation.
- Telling Deaf Lives: Agents of Change by Kristen Snoddon
Deaf community historians share diverse stories of deaf individuals in this collection. Melissa and Breda describe the Cosmopolitan Correspondence Club, a group of deaf individuals who corresponded in the early 20th century from Australia to Western Europe to the United States; Ulla-Bell recounts first-hand growing up deaf in Sweden and her process in authoring six memoirs; Tatiana writes about her deaf family’s experience during the World War II siege of Leningrad; others look at the evolution of ASL poetry by analyzing works of prominent ASL poets Valli, Cook, and Lerner.
- Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education by Thomas J. Tobin
Advocates for the rights of people with disabilities have worked hard to make universal design in the built-world “just part of what we do.” For example, captioned instructional videos benefit learners with hearing impairments but also the student who worries about waking her young children at night. This book is aimed at faculty, disability support providers, student-service staff, and campus leaders who want to strengthen the engagement, interaction, and performance of all college students.
- HandiLand: The Crippest Place on Earth by Elizabeth Wheeler
A look at young adult novels, fantasy series, graphic memoirs, and picture books in which characters with disabilities take center stage for the first time. These books take what others regard as weaknesses — for instance, Harry Potter’s headaches or Hazel Lancaster’s oxygen tank — and redefine them as part of the hero’s journey. HandiLand places this movement from sidekick to hero in the political contexts of disability rights movements. HandiLand moves through the public spaces young people with disabilities have entered, including schools, nature, and online communities.
- Golem Girl by Riva Lehrer
In 1958, Riva is one of the first children born with spina bifida to survive. Her parents and doctors are determined to “fix” her, sending the message over and over again that she is broken. That she will never have a job, a romantic relationship, or an independent life. Enduring countless medical interventions, Riva tries her best to be a good girl and a good patient in the quest to be cured. Everything changes when, as an adult, Riva is invited to join a group of artists, writers, and performers who are building Disability Culture.
- eQuality: the Struggle for Web Accessibility by People with Cognitive Disabilities by Peter Blanck
Never before have the rights of people with disabilities aligned so well with information and communication technologies. This book is about the lived struggle for disability rights, with a focus on the web, for people with cognitive disabilities, like intellectual disabilities, autism or print-related disabilities. The principles derived from the right to the web – freedom of speech and individual dignity – are bound to lead towards full and meaningful involvement in society for persons with cognitive disabilities.