Susan Koller - ADA30 Impact

June 10, 2020

To be completely honest when AUCD sent out a call for ADA impact stories my first reaction was "oh shoot! What am I going to write about?" I was 8 when the ADA was passed and didn't live in the United States until the age of 12. I didn't know what life was like in this country before the ADA was passed and didn't get to see any of the news coverage of the heroic demonstrators crawling up the Capitol steps. All of a sudden a thought popped into my head - "the ADA gave me more freedom!" I'd like to share to examples of the freedom I gained.

I have cerebral palsy and need help to do almost everything. Like everyone else, I like to be as independent as possible. Sometimes, I get more pleasure out of the small victories in my own personal war of independence. I don't even remember when I first saw an automatic button next to a door. All I know is that I still get a happy feeling when I see these buttons and still feel satisfaction when my hand touches the metal. I'm so grateful for these buttons because every time I push one of them it means I have to ask for help one less time.

Susan using a motorized wheelchair with her service dog outside at a park.One of the biggest freedoms I enjoy is a direct result of the ADA. Thanks to the ADA, there are paratransit services. Paratransit services have given me the freedom to have so many wonderful experiences. I have used the services to go to work, attend classes, go to doctors, go to therapy, volunteer at hospitals, and meet friends for dinners and movies. I love feeling that I am not in debt to caregivers just because they have to take me places. I feel indebted to caregivers for so many things that it's nice to have one area of my life where I feel free. I know paratransit is far from perfect, but it's a great starting point that we can all work together to improve.

Freedom is one of America's most fundamental values. Although I'm sad I didn't get to witness the hard work of the ADA demonstrators in real-time, I'll always be extremely grateful for the freedoms they gained for me. Unfortunately, the fight is not over. There is still so much that needs to be done to ensure freedom, equality, and inclusion for people with all types of disabilities. To be completely honest once again, I was a reluctant disability advocate. I spent the majority of my life not wanting to be different. It was my involvement in the University of Cincinnati's LEND program that made me feel I had a responsibility to speak up for myself and others with disabilities. I owe it to all those who crawled up the steps to pick up the torch and continue their work. I just hope I can make half the difference in the lives of the next generation of people with disabilities as those first trailblazers did in mine!

We are seeking stories that will amplify this achievement by asking what does the ADA mean to you? How has the ADA has impacted your center and its work? How has the ADA impacted areas of your public life such as school, jobs, transportation and accessibility? Most importantly, how has the ADA inspired you to live a successful and rewarding life? Learn more...