Doing The Right Thing

2015 is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. We will be posting 25 posts over the next 12 months which will focus on the ADA- how it has changed society and what still needs to be done. Our goal is to cover for you, dear reader, as many different angles and issues as possible. Below is the first post in our #ADA25For25 series.

Jo Ann SimonsBy: Jo Ann Simons

The ADA is turning 25. Big deal? I think so.

I took my new grandson for a walk yesterday and I remembered a time without curb cuts and a broken elevator meant I couldn’t access the mall with his carriage. I have become used to seeing our elected officials with sign language interpreter’s close by. I do a silent mini dance in my head each time I see a person with a disability working. I notice ramps.

Those ramps, on our older buildings, are an afterthought and a testament to a time when people with disabilities were not a thought, not even an afterthought.

So it was with great excitement, last month, that I visited an inclusion program at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club. If you are not from Boston, you are not aware that South Boston is a densely populated, economically challenged and proud neighborhood. It was a crowded street and I noticed that there was a big construction project going on.

I had been instructed to use a side entrance and once inside I learned that I had entered through the handicapped entrance, a more recent addition to the original building. I am guessing the building was built in the 1950’s- almost a half century before we would learn that steps kept some people from buildings. I also learned that the construction project, which took up most of the small block, was being done to make the main entrance accessible.

Imagine that all the boys and girls would be able to use the same entrance. Nobody would be excluded or relegated to the side, “handicap accessible” entrance. While the Club was already in compliance with the ADA, they didn’t stop there. They were spending hard earned fundraising dollars to make the Club welcome to all.

Signing the ADA into law

President Bush signs the ADA into law in 1990 (courtesy: http://bit.ly/1pDHQiW)

Good news for the kids but the ADA always excluded religious organizations and places of worship. I can only imagine that this exclusion was permitted so the bill would pass. There must have been powerful lobbyists hard at work. There may have been concerns about the financial requirements that would fall on religious organizations. Clearly, the voices of people wanting to enter and worship were not loud enough and the bill passed with religious groups off the hook.

So as we celebrate the ADA turning 25, wouldn’t it be nice if religious groups collectively said the time has come for us to be included in the ADA!

Or religious groups could ask the good people at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club for advice on how to raise money to do the right thing.

Jo Ann Simons is a Disability Advisor to the Ruderman Family Foundation and President and CEO of the Cardinal Cushing Centers.

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