I heard a recent radio story commemorating the 20th anniversary of signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. On July 20, 1990, President George (H.W.) Bush signed this historic piece of American law.
The radio piece by by Sasha Aslanian of Minnesota Public Radio featured two sisters who are only a year apart in age, but didn’t grow up together. The younger sister grew up in an institution for disabled person in the 1960s. I encourage you to go to the MPR website and listen to the story. It brought tears to my eyes and gave me chills. (Of course, I am a bit of a softy.)
After the story, I thought, “Wait…what? The ADA is only 20 years old?” Other human rights issues, like the 19th Amendment and the Civil Rights Amendment happened before my time. I studied them in high school history.
The ADA was signed when I was in college. What took us so long? What took us so long to realize that people with disabilities are still people — that they have the right to live and work and love like anyone else?
I assume that as our knowledge of science and medicine advanced, our society came to better understand why some people move, talk, hear, see and learn differently from what was considered “normal.”
A person with a disability may have special needs: such as an interpreter, cane, a service dog or an at-home aide, but when it comes down to the basics we all need the same things. And we all deserve respect.