Sunday, April 19, 2015

ADA Generation Girl: Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of the ADA

On July 26th, 1990, just shy of two years before I was born, the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed.  On June 3rd, 1992, I arrived in this world three months prematurely, marking my status as a disabled person and placing me squarely in the ADA Generation - the first generation of disabled people to grow up with the ADA.

The ADA and I have together explored the unmitigated wonders of toddlerhood, the rapid growth of childhood, and the rocky tumults of adolescence.  Now we are both in our twenties, a little jaded, a little bruised, but stronger because of our struggles.  And I am forever grateful to the ADA for ensuring that my rights are protected.

I think one of the biggest things that the ADA has instilled in us is a sense of expectation. When I get on a bus or a train, I expect that it's going to be accessible for me.  When I go into a store, or see a show, my expectation is that I will be able to go into the building and spend my hard earned money, just like everyone else.  I expect that I will be able to access education and get a job.  The ADA doesn't guarantee that I won't face discrimination along the way, but it ensures that I will have channels to report that discrimination.  Over the last year, I have traveled more than ever before, both for pleasure and for business, and the sheer fact that I am able to go into an airport or a train station, board a train or a plane, and get to my final destination with a minimum of fuss reflects how much the ADA has changed the landscape of America for people with disabilities.

The ADA shouldn't have to exist.  I should not have to quote legislation in order to prove what should be self-evident - that the state of my body or mind does not erase the rights that I am entitled to.  Rights should not be conditional, and yet, we have had to fight, over and over, for women's rights, for the rights of people of color, for disability rights, for gender and sexual minorities' rights, proving that the words of our founding fathers, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal." were no more than hollow lies.  Yet, my wish that the ADA didn't have to exist can exist side by side with my profound gratitude that such a law does exist.

This summer, I will celebrate the ADA and all it has done for me and for so many others, particularly in the great city of New York, where I see the ADA's impact every day.  I'm working with the Mayor's Office for People With Disabilities Youth Council in order to plan the ADA25NYC initiative - an exciting lineup of events and celebrations right here in New York for the 25th anniversary of the ADA.  If you're hosting a disability event in NYC or the surrounding areas, you can add it to the MOPD calendar.  On social media, you can use the hashtag #ADA25NYC and follow all the great events that are happening.   And if you're a blogger, we want you!  My friend and fellow Youth Council member Emily Ladau and I are hosting a linkup of blog posts for the 25th anniversary of the ADA.  If the ADA has impacted your life, we want to hear about it!  Send your submissions to Emily at and we'll be spending the next few months linking to all of your wonderful posts.  For those of you who would like to contribute, but don't have a blog of your own, I cordially welcome guest posts on my blog.  Together, let's look back on 25 years of the ADA - and look forward to 25 more.