The Americans with Disabilities Act turned 25 on July 26th. Communities, organizations and individuals across the country have been celebrating this important milestone in the months and weeks leading up to the anniversary. But while the ADA has made great strides toward full inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of life, there is still much work to be done.
For example, the “built environment” is one easy way to see how far we’ve come since passage of the ADA. Take a look at your own community and the places you frequent. Where are the accessible entrances? Are they on the front of the building or tucked around back? New buildings, such as the one pictured at right, often feature universally accessible front entrances that allow everyone access through the main entrance. This is one example of full inclusion in the built environment.
Older buildings often have accessibility retrofitted into their designs and may have accessible entrances only on the side or in the back. While these entrances are accessible, they do not represent full inclusion because they require individuals with disabilities to use a different entrance.
As you celebrate the ADA, consider what changes in your community need to be made to improve full inclusion of people with disabilities. Talk to decision-makers and planners when old buildings are being modified or new buildings are being designed to make sure universal accessibility is part of the plan. Talk with educators and university administrators and find out about disability student services and how people with disabilities are fully included in public school and university environments. The ADA has done a lot over the last 25 years but it’s up to us to make sure the progress continues.