Sunday, August 12, 2012

HAPPY (BELATED) BIRTHDAY ADA

The Americans With Disabilities Act became law on July 26, 1990. The purpose of the law is to ensure that the disabled live in a society that is accessible to them. The ADA covers employment, accessibility of state and local government buildings, any restaurant or store as well as public and private transportation services. The law ensures that anywhere telephone services are given to the public, telephone relay services are given to anyone who is hearing impaired. In short, anything that is available to the able-bodied should be made available to those with a disability as well. No one with a disability should be discriminated against for trying to have their rights upheld.

The law has come a long way, but still has a long way to go, particularly in terms of architecture and quality transportation services. Last year, I went to a restaurant that had steps in front. The restaurant staff offered to pick me up in my motorized wheelchair and carry me up the steps to the inside. . I declined their offer. My chair is heavy and I didn't want anyone getting hurt. There are many people with chairs larger then mine. Carrying a chair up steps can be difficult for those offering assistance and scary for the person in the chair. The restaurant staff then directed us to an entrance where I assume deliveries are made. I had to drive down a steep ramp and then go through the restaurant kitchen. When I was little going through a restaurant kitchen to get to the dining area was a common occurrence for me, but in 2011, I never dreamed I'd still have to go through a kitchen. When we left, I did let the restaurant staff carry me down the front entrance steps. because the ramp for the delivery entrance scared me and I felt being carried down the steps would be quicker and safer.

Earlier this year I wanted to have little chocolate teddy bears made as I was having a book signing. Since my children's book, The Busy World of Bianca Bear, is about the adventures of a little pink bear I thought it would be nice to have chocolate teddy bears on my signing table for anyone who stopped by. I called a candy store near my house and they told me they had teddy bears and I should come in and look at their selection. I wanted to stop in, but when we went by, the building was not accessible. I don't even think there was a curb cut and I know there was a step to get in. I called to complain and was given a voicemail. I left a message explaining my situation along with my contact information. I never heard from them. I was very disappointed that
the store. didn't care enough to return my call and address my concerns.

I am fortunate enough to have an accessible van and caregivers to drive me where I need to go. Most disabled people are not so lucky. They must depend on public transportation, buses and Call-A-Ride. I have been told the lifts on buses are always broken. I have also heard horror stories concerning Call-A-Ride. They can be either fifteen minutes early or fifteen minutes late in picking a passenger up. A rider must be outside and waiting no matter what the weather. Call-A-Ride may be a hour or two late and it may be raining, but a rider must be outside waiting for the van otherwise the van will leave them. The rider will get a warning letter. If they are late again they will be suspended for a period of time. If a rider misses a van, it may be several hours before another van is available to pick them up. I know of someone who didn't make it to their doctors appointment because Call-A-Ride was late picking them up. By the time they arrived at the doctors office, the office was closed. Call-A-Ride left the person outside and it was getting dark. Thankfully, another van picked them up in a few minutes. A rider may have to transfer several times before reaching their destination. Again, they must wait outside, no matter what the weather, for the next van or the van will leave. My friend was hurt due to an inexperienced driver who didn't secure their chair in the van properly. Call-A-Ride paid their medical expenses.

Disabled people deserve safe, dependable transportation. There are a few accessible .taxis now, but they can be expensive. Every building needs to have a safe accessible entrance. I realize money is tight and budgets are being cut, but something needs to be done so that disabled people can continue to lead independent and productive lives.