20th Anniversary of the ADA

By Adrienne Lauby

A few days ago, I heard of a 90 year old woman who refused an IV line because the doctor said she would have to go into a hospital if she had it put in. She wanted to spend her last days at home.

What the…?!?!

I know, and many of you know, that this is a non-issue. There are ways for people who need I.V. treatments to have them at their homes.

A few days ago, I heard that a local homeless advocate wanted to set up a campsite, so those who are homeless would have another choice than sleeping in doorways or sidewalks. But the city didn’t think it would work.

What the…?!?!

The L.A. County jail continues to be the largest institution for those with emotional disabilities in the nation. The county where I live, one of the richest in the U.S., has no in-patient treatment for people with emotional disabilities.

What the…?!?!

Twenty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, problems like this, problems with common sense solutions, continue to fester.

ADAPT is a national group with a history of nonviolent direct action group dedicated to bringing people with disabilities out of institutions and into the community. They said it very well:

“…knowing that you are protected against discrimination in employment means nothing when the hub of your life is a bedroom you share with a stranger. Knowing that buildings and public accommodations are accessible means nothing when the facility staff won’t let you leave; and even having access to lifts on buses – as dear to our hearts as that is – means nothing when you cannot afford to go anywhere on the allowance that is left over after the institution has taken its share of your money.”

The ADA is not a failure. The ADA brought us accessible buildings, bathrooms, sidewalks, buses. It gave many children and young adults the opportunity for education, travel and social lives. Despite the business whining that ADA access is too burdensome for their bottom line, the ADA brought people with canes, sign language, protective masks and wheelchairs into our public spaces. Picture by Neil Marcus. The text reads, "Disability is not a brave struggle or courage in the face of adversity; Disability is an Art. It's an ingenious way to live." The image is a pen & ink drawing of a human and a wheelchair.

I celebrate this anniversary with a re-dedication.

Freedom for people with disabilities is not about bringing more workers into a capitalist system. Freedom is about dignity and membership in the human community. I dedicate myself to the fight for this freedom.

Today, people who could live in the community are forced into for-profit institutions because society believes their physical condition is too troublesome to care for individually. People with mental and emotional disabilities are offered few treatment options and, if they end up on the street, their final destination is often jail.

We have no choice. We must stand with those who are not yet among the free.

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