Thursday, April 22, 2010

The ADA Generation

Disability Blog, a blog created by Disability.gov to provide news information and trends, is counting down the days to the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Tuesday was Day 97, and the post involves members of the "ADA generation" - people born later than the 1970s who take disability inclusion for granted.

I was born in 1986, four years before President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law. As the post says, "Many young people do not remember life before the use of wheelchair ramps, curb cuts or closed captioning." I can attest to that. The concept of businesses not having wheelchair ramps is completely foreign to me. I am old enough to remember when not every show on TV was captioned or when there was not enough effort made to deliver captions effectively and efficiently. Often I had to watch my favorite Nickelodeon or Disney shows without being truly able to follow what was going on. I loved PBS my entire life because they have always provided captions.

However, I can see that while some problems and their solutions have entered the mainstream - like guide dogs for the blind and the aforementioned wheelchair ramps - new difficulties will always be faced. Right now a huge battle is being waged for online captions. The recently introduced and much lauded iPad delivers flash videos in a way that cannot support captions, and this is the year 2010. This is the 21st century and Netflix just captioned a hundred or so of their streaming videos. The automatic captioning system on Youtube is still in its infancy. People still feel the need to hide their hearing aids - or whatever disability. People do not feel as though they can self-advocate even though the legislation giving them that right was passed 20 years ago.

I sincerely hope that my kids take for granted things that we have difficulty with today, just the way I take for granted things that people before 1990 had difficulty with. As the article says, "As the 20th anniversary of this landmark law approaches, now is the time to consider how Americans have benefited from the passing of the ADA and what new possibilities and challenges it has created for people with disabilities."

2 comments:

  1. that is interesting. I've never thought about not can I imagine places not having handicap spaces (I'm assuming this was also in the law?) or wheelchair ramps. And like you said, even 20 years later people still seem to not be fully able to enjoy simple things that non-disabled people do. Interesting. thanks for sharing!

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  2. I'll never forget a story someone told me about her deaf friends in eastern Washington when Mt. St. Helens blew. The sky turned black by 12-noon--it was so dark it was like night. Most people who had televisions or could listen to the radio knew what was happening, but this Deaf couple didn't watch TV since they couldn't hear it. In 1980 even the news wasn't captioned. So this Deaf couple didn't know they were supposed to put their animals away and they panicked when the sky turned black. They were scared stiff when some friends drove up the rode to inform them what had happened, that Mt. St. Helens, a volcano several hundred miles away was spewing ash and debris.

    Sometimes it may seem like our work towards access will never be done, but whenever I think of that it reminds me how far we've come! :-)

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