Today marks the 26th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and according to Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, we still have a ways to go until disabled people among us achieve equality of opportunity.
She wrote on the department’s blog: We must forge on until growing up with a disability in America no longer leads to discrimination; until we, as a nation, recognize the dignity and value of every person without question and until — to quote President [George HW] Bush’s powerful words at the ADA signing ceremony — “the shameful wall of exclusion finally come[s] tumbling down.”
A two-day celebration honoring the anniversary of this landmark civil rights law, which protects against discrimination based on disability, finished earlier today at Lackawanna High School near Buffalo, New York. It was the second annual event of its kind, according to a report in the Buffalo News. Haylee Nugent, 16, is the captain of the event, and she took a few minutes to describe the logos on her blue and white T-shirt.
“This [square] is for people who have wheelchairs, who have spinal disabilities,” she was quoted as saying. “This is for mental health—the one with the cranium. This is for deaf, so they have the sign language, and this is for blind people.”
Despite everyone’s good intentions, the paper posted a story last year, on the 25th anniversary of the act, echoing the “long way to go” message posted by the Justice Department today:
“Inaccessible websites continue to put up barriers for blind and visually impaired people,” writes Kathi Wolfe, a poet. “I’m often at my wit’s end when I try to book an airline reservation or find a company’s contact information online because a site isn’t accessible to me. Deaf people often can’t get good video captioning online.”
And there have been reports of abuse involving the ADA, such as a report earlier this month from Hawaii, telling of impostors who claim their pet dogs are service animals. I love dogs, but when untrained pets start misbehaving in a service-animal vest, it makes people who ordinarily try their best to accommodate individuals with disabilities feel uncomfortable.
Restaurants are particular areas of abuse, the Honolulu Star reported. “Dogs shouldn’t be on chairs. Dogs shouldn’t be fed from a fork. Dogs shouldn’t be running around and barking and the wait staff shouldn’t have to step over the dog,” the paper quoted Susan Luehrs, founder and program director of Hawaii Fi-Do, the only accredited service dog program on Oahu, as saying.
Winners of the 2016 Braille Challenge
In related news, the Braille Institute in Los Angeles announced the winners of this year’s Braille Challenge on June 28. More than 1,100 students across the country participated in preliminary competitions that celebrate achievement in braille literacy.
Meredith Day, a rising third grader from Mechanicsville Elementary School in Carroll County, Maryland, won first place in the apprentice age category. She competed against other first- and second-grade students from around the US.
The challenge is a two-stage contest designed to motivate blind students in the US and Canada to emphasize their study of Braille while rewarding their success with fun-filled, but challenging, local and national events. In Maryland, a preliminary challenge is held in January or February. Contests are proctored by teachers of the visually impaired and scored locally according to national guidelines by volunteer transcribers.
The top-scoring 50 contestants nationally get to attend the finals in Los Angeles, which consists of two days of competition, camaraderie, and fun. Braille Challenge contest categories include reading comprehension, braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling, and reading tactile charts and graphs.