ADA 25th Anniversary

By Nicloe LeBlanc, Green Mountain Self Advocates

September 1, 2015

As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I would like to share some thoughts on what the ADA means to me as a person with autism. I want to say first off that I feel very lucky and privileged to have grown up with the ADA. I was only 5 years old when the ADA passed in 1990 and I was attending the Easter Seals preschool program in Manchester, New Hampshire. Being part of the ADA generation has allowed people like myself to access the supports and accommodations needed to be successful in this world.

In my view ADA is like the declaration of independence for people with disabilities. The ADA has done a lot to help move society to a place where there is a level playing field in all aspects of community life. For instance, the ADA has made it illegal to discriminate against someone with a disability in areas such as housing and employment. Another big thing that the ADA has achieved is making it easier for people with disabilities to come out of the closet about their disability and be proud of who they are as a person. One thing we say at Green Mountain Self-Advocates is that there are 2 closets: the first closet is the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) closet and the second closet is the disability closet.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has made the lives of people with developmental disabilities better because it has helped to shift America away from the Medical model of disability towards the civil rights viewpoint. Before the ADA was passed, disability was thought of as a medical problem. This meant that disabilities were treated as a disease or a deficit. With the signing of the ADA on July 26, 1990, it was the beginning of a new era where disability is seen as a natural part of the human experience and as another form of human diversity that makes America so great. When society makes diversity of all kinds a part of its community fabric, everybody is a winner!

As we look towards the next 5-25 years of the ADA, there is still much more work to do and progress to make. I hope that in my lifetime to see a world where everyone with a disability is fully included in the community to the greatest extent possible. I hope that everyone is living in integrated housing and working real jobs for real pay, not just the food and filth department. Another important aspect of integrating people with disabilities into the community is encouraging active participation in community activities alongside people without disabilities. Lastly, I hope to live in a nation where nobody with a disability is living in an institution or working in a sheltered workshop at sub-minimum wage.

To conclude, I want to say that I am ever so grateful for all the veteran disability rights activist leaders who have fought tooth and nail to get the ADA and many other import civil rights laws like IDEA and the Social Security act passed for us. Thank you all to all the advocates and allies that have helped to level the playing field for the disability community over the last 25-50 years.

HAPPY 25TH Birthday ADA!