Posts Tagged 'Americans with Disabilities Act'

Not ashamed to say it: I’d rather be able to see

Roughly one in five Americans lives with a disability. So where is our pride movement?

That’s the subhead to an op-ed piece called Becoming Disabled in the New York Times Sunday Review this week. The piece was written by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, an academic who has a disability.

The piece is well-written and looooooooooong — Professor Garland-Thomson shares plenty of statistics and numbers about people with disabilities. In addition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate in the subhead (one in five adults in the United States is living with a disability), the piece links to a National Organization on Disability study saying 56 million people in America have a disability. People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States, and that group is growing. And so, Professor Garland-Thomson reasons, “Because almost all of us will experience disability sometime in our lives, having to navigate one early in life can be a great advantage.”

Thanks to the ADA, riding a train is a yawn for Whitney.

Thanks to the ADA, riding a train is a yawn for Whitney.


The professor did her homework for this piece, covering everything from the “correct” way to refer to disability as a new “politicized identity” to how studying the history and culture of disability allowed her to “come out of the closet” about hers. What she didn’t do in her piece, however, was answer the question in the subhead. “Where is our pride movement?”, she asks.

I think I have the answer. I cannot speak for all people with disabilities, but I do not find losing my sight early in life to be a “great advantage.” I am not proud of being blind, and I can’t imagine marching in a parade to boast about my disability.

I’d rather be able to see.

That said, I am not ashamed of being blind, either, and I think that’s the important issue here. In the op-ed, Professor Garland-Thomson points out that disability is everywhere once you start noticing it. “Wheelchair users or people with walkers, hearing aids, canes, service animals, prosthetic limbs or breathing devices may seem to appear out of nowhere,” she writes. “When they were in fact there all the time.”

This is due in large part to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. Thanks to the ADA and other civil rights legislation, I’m able to access audio books from the National Library Service, use my talking computer to access web sites, have my guide dog lead me onto buses, trains and airplanes, use Braille to find my room number in hotels, check out menus on line before we eat out, procure health care even though I have a pre-existing condition, and vote on my own using a special audio machine. If you live in my neighborhood, you’ve seen me out and about with my Seeing Eye dog. We’re part of the fabric.

I should add that another critical piece of legislation that has helped people with disabilities go mainstream is often overlooked. Back in 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) gave children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as those students who do not have a disability. That act gave way in 1990 to the updated Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The result: Kids with disabilities are part of the everyday fabric of day to day life from an early age.

Americans with and without disabilities can take pride in the legislators and lobbyists and supporters who helped pass the ADA and the laws that led up to it. All of us should take pride of our resourcefulness, the different ways we manage to do the things we want to do, and how, throughout our history, Americans have fought together for civil rights legislation to reorganize and rebuild our country into one that allows everyone to participate.

I’m proud of all of us.

We’ve come a long way, baby: Sen. Harkin teaches DNC audience “America” in sign language

Overshadowed by speeches by Bernie, Bill and Michelle at the Democratic Convention this week came a quick and quiet talk by former Senator Tom harkin to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act yesterday.

Harkin, who was taught sign language by his brother Frank, taught everyone in the audience the sign for “America”: put your palms together, he said, continuing by instructing the crowd of delegates to make a huge circle in front of them while their hands were together like that. “Think about it,” he said. “We are all together, no one is left out in this constant circle of life .”

Click on the image to see Sen. Harkin in action.

Click on the image to see Sen. Harkin in action.

The Americans with Disabilities Act hadn’t been passed yet when I started losing my eyesight in 1984. I was 25 years old then, and along with the obvious fear of going blind came the underlying fear of being left out of society if and when that happened. I went as long as I could without using a white cane or a guide dog. I quit driving or riding my bike, but I could still see well enough to walk to my job as the Assistant Director of the Study Abroad Office at a Big Ten university.

Most of my work back then involved counseling college students on study abroad options — I could have done that with my eyes closed!

As my eyesight got worse, though, I started making mistakes in the office. I still remember spilling grounds all over the floor on my way to make the morning coffee. I had to sit close to my computer screen to see the words. I ran into tabletops.

At some point my boss took me aside and told me I wouldn’t be going to the annual convention with my colleagues. “You’ll embarrass the office,” she said. Months later, my contract was terminated.

I celebrated the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) yesterday right along with Sen. Harkin. The landmark federal legislation was passed five years after I lost that job. Designed to improve access to services and employment opportunities, it was intended to eliminate illegal discrimination and level the playing field for people like me who live with disabilities.

I am totally blind now, and I use speech software for my part-time job moderating a blog for easterseals. I’ve had two books published, and have another one on the way. I record pieces for public radio from time to time, and I lead four different memoir-writing classes for older adults in Chicago every week.

It’s true we have a long, long way to go before hiring practices are totally fair to those of us who can’t see, use wheelchairs, or have a myriad of other disabilities. Things are moving in the right direction, though, and thanks to the wisdom and determination of Sen. Harkin and the many people who banded together to get the ADA passed 26 years ago, we have the law on our side.

Throwback Thursday: Road trip!

The three days I spent In New England over Memorial Day reminded me of trips I used to take in my college years. Only difference: Back then I would have found a ride on the “ride board” at the U of I snack bar and sat in the back seat of a stranger’s car to get there. This time, I flew with friends: Whitney and Mike.

The three of us glided relatively easily through TSA lines at Midway Airport, and our travel good karma continued when what might have been a fiasco in Cambridge unexpectedly turned into a bonus.

Here’s what happened. The manager of the bed & breakfast we’d booked in Cambridge told us we couldn’t stay there with Whitney. “No dogs, “ she said. I told her Whitney is a guide dog. “I need her to get me around safely,” I explained. “No dogs,” she said. I quoted regulations from the Americans with Disabilities Act. “No dogs,” she repeated. I didn’t want to waste our short time arguing with the manager, and I didn’t want to waste my good money on a room where we were obviously unwelcome. We cancelled our room and Mike found a last-minute deal at a hotel on Copley Square.


The blues sound a little spooky on a harpsichord.

I was as giddy as a schoolgirl when we checked in. Our room was cheaper than the one at the @*)! B&B would have been, and for some odd reason, we’d been upgraded, too. We landed a room on the swanky 36th floor.

The concierge recommended a good joint for oysters nearby. “They have a really long bar there,” he said. “You should be able to walk right in and find a couple seats.” He was right.
We took our bartender’s recommendations on which ones to order. Oysters taste different in Boston than they do in Chicago. I had six.

A friend met us there half way through our first dozen oysters. Lydia moved from Chicago to Boston last year to take a job with Harvard Magazine, and visiting with her Friday and Saturday morning marked the first throwback to my college and post-college years: I got out of Illinois to see a friend who’d just left for a new cool job somewhere else.

Saturday afternoon our friend Siobhan Senier picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the lovely place she and her husband Greg live alongside the Lamprey River in Epping, New Hampshire. Mike and I knew Greg and Siobhan when they lived in Urbana, Illinois. They left town after Siobhan received a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, and now she’s a literary historian at University of New Hampshire. Siobhan gathers Native writing from New England and works to figure out why that writing isn’t more widely read — or understood. She’s building a digital archive of that literature, and you can read more about it on her Indigenous New England Literature blog — pretty cool stuff.

We spent Saturday afternoon and evening sitting on the patio behind Siobhan and Greg’s house — who needs to leave home when its sunny outside and there’s a charcoal grill nearby? Surrounded by a little grass and a lot of forest, Whitney chased a tennis ball, ran it back to us, chased a tennis ball, ran it back to us, chased a tennis ball, ran it back to us, chased a tennis ball, ran it back to us…you get the picture. We humans ate delicious food — including local swordfish — from the grill and caught up and just hung out and laughed and laughed and laughed — like we used to do in our twenties in Urbana. In a morning walk the next day, Greg — an avid birder — identified the birds we heard by their calls.

On Sunday, we had a two-hour drive with Siobhan to the farm where our friends Mim and Kin live in northern New Hampshire. Again, the nostalgia: a road trip! Siobhan would be staying overnight with us at the farm house, and Mim’s mom was coming in from Vermont to see us, too.

I met Mim when we were both dopey college students — we were on the same study abroad program in Austria. She’s Dr. Miriam Nelson now, author of a best-selling Strong Women series of books about the benefits of strength training. Mim is the one who got me an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She was on Oprah touting her books, I stood in the audience to ask a question, mentioned my job modeling nude for art students, and Oprah used the clip in a special “Best of After the Show” segment the next year. So thanks to Mim, I had a moment of Oprah fame myself!

Mim recently accepted a new position at University of New Hampshire where Siobhan teaches. Mim and her husband Kin inherited Kin’s family farm in northern New Hampshire some years ago after his parents died. Their three children are all grown now, so the two of them moved permanently to the farm in March when Mim started her new job.

Yet another beautiful place surrounded by trees and fields, but this time, a working farm, too. As baffled as Whitney was by the cows and sheep on the other side of the fence, she was more taken by the tennis ball she uncovered in the field. Kin threw the ball, she chased it and ran it back, Kin threw the ball, she chased it and ran it back, Kin threw the ball, she chased it and ran it back, Kin threw the ball, she chased it and ran it back, Kin threw the ball, she chased it and ran it back, …you get the picture.

Mim and Kin have been married more than 25 years now. Mike and I went to their wedding, I catch up with Mim in New England any time I’m up that way, her mom and brother visited while driving through Chicago way back when  — we went to the Checkerboard Lounge when it was the real deal. Mim’s met up with me here in Chicago many times while on business trips. With all that, until this visit, I’d never had a chance to really get to know her husband Kin. Another throwback to my college days. I felt like I was meeting a friend’s boyfriend for the first time. Kin passed the audition — in one short overnight stay, we bonded! (He makes a mean cappuccino, which didn’t hurt.)

Aside from short walks around the farm, we never leftthe Mim and Kin’s farm house. After a traditional Memorial Day dinner –hamburgers on the grill — Kin led us upstairs to their music room. He’s an accomplished musician and treated us with some tunes on his  violin. I played blues tunes on a harpsichord Kin’s father had built (think Addams Family). Mostly, though, we laughed and talked over meals at the kitchen table.

Siobhan was sitting next to me once when none of us could remember an actor from some movie or another. “If I had my phone with me, I could look it up,” she said. That’s when it dawned on me. All weekend long, not a single conversation had been interrupted by the ding or ring of a phone. None of us seemed to need to take a phone out to entertain ourselves.

Another throwback.

She loves Wrigley Field, but she sure wishes it was easier to navigate in her wheelchair

The Cubs win over the Pittsburgh Pirates last night means they’ll be in Chicago Monday to play the St. Louis Cardinals, but a fan who uses a wheelchair says she isn’t going to bother trying to see the game at Wrigley Field – it’s inaccessible for her.

A jumbotron in left field was part of renovations at Wrigley.

A jumbotron in left field was part of renovations at Wrigley.

Lifelong Cubs fan Marla Donato started using a wheelchair two years ago after undergoing multiple surgeries to repair a shattered leg and ankle. “Even if the Cubs’ season continues, I won’t be angling to go to more games,” Donato writes in a post on the CityLab blog called I Love Wrigley Field, But as a Wheelchair User, I Sure Wish It Was Easier to Navigate. “It’s too hard to navigate the ballpark in a wheelchair.”

In her post, Donato said she’s been root, root, rooting for the Cubbies at Wrigley Field her entire life, and she figured it’d be no big deal going there in a wheelchair. “After all, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” she reasoned. “We’ve come a long way with accessibility issues.”

Here at the Safe & Sound blog I’ve been publishing a lot of posts lately about the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Saturday morning I’m taking a special tour of downtown Chicago for people who are blind that the Chicago Architecture Foundation put together to celebrate the anniversary, and I’ll head right from there to the first-ever touch tour put on by the Goodman Theatre — I’ll see (well, I’ll hear!) the production of Disgraced after I tour the stage. We’ve come a long way in terms of accessibility, but 25 years later, many public spaces remain inaccessible or inhospitable to people with disabilities.

In her post, Donato wrote about the $575 million budget Cub owners have to update Cubs Park and the surrounding area — she assumed upgrading accessibility would be high on their to-do list. “But instead of, say, getting the elevators running by even halfway through the season, the ballpark’s brass concentrated on installing big Jumbotrons and an ear-splitting audio system by opening day.”

The game Donato attended at Wrigley over the summer was her first “fun” outing after doctors had to re-break her heel during a recent surgery. Some of the challenging issues she encountered during that fun day:

  • Inaccessible bathrooms. She couldn’t brace herself to stand up on her own in a stall, so a stranger helped pull her pants up and down.
  • Elevators out of service. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice (which oversees compliance with the Americans with Disabilities act) pointed her towards regulations that stipulate that elevator repairs “must be made as quickly as possible.” The regulations do not specify how quick “quickly” has to be, and they say ramps are okay in the meantime.
  • Ramps are steep. Some “historic properties” are held to different standards when it comes to things like the steepness of ramps. Donato’s husband and a “young, strong usher” struggled together and finally managed to push her up the long series of steep ramps at Wrigley.

Once in their assigned area, Donato’s wheelchair was placed along with others behind the last row of seats at the very top of the Terrace. “Were we all actually expected to sit completely in the main aisle and become an obstacle course for drunken fans on hotdog and beer runs?” she asks in her blog post. “Wasn’t that a fire code hazard? An emergency exit violation?”

Cubs spokesman Julian Green told Donato later that her assigned seating was perfectly legal, that sitting completely out in a main aisle without any protective barrier satisfies ADA regulations as long as the aisle is considered wide enough.

Donato’s post goes on to spell out countless other problems she encountered at the game this past summer, and how she learned that when it comes to making accommodations for people with mobility impairments there are a lot of gray areas — even after the passage of the Americans with disabilities Act. From her post:

It tends to be easier to get around newer parks, built after 1993, which are held to different standards. And there are some allowances for “alternative standards,” such as the steepness of ramps for “historic properties.” Those are ones “eligible for listing in the National Register or Historic Places, or properties designated as historic under State or local law.”

If any of you blog readers know how Fenway Park in Boston dealt with these sorts of issues, or if you have stadium stories of your own to tell, please leave them here in the comments.

In the end, Donato and her husband left the game early – they wanted to avoid navigating her wheelchair through the crush of fellow Cub fans on the steep ramps towards the exits. “We missed the Cubs’ ninth inning fall from grace and then the team’s tenth inning game-winning home run,” she writes. “Now I’ve added stadiums to my list of fun things I took for granted before I had to navigate them this way.”

Whitney and Beth, live at Biograph Theatre

For eighty years now, Chicago’s Biograph Theatre has been known as the movie house where FBI agents gunned down bank robber John Dillinger. After our performance this past Monday night, though, maybe the Biograph will start being better known as the theatre where Beth Finke and her cute Seeing Eye dog Whitney got their stage debut.

The Biograph in an earlier era.

The Biograph in an earlier era.

Let me explain. The Biograph was a movie Theatre for 70 years after Dillinger was killed, but in 2004, a regional theatre here in Chicago called Victory Gardens refurbished it to put on live productions there. Arts organizations all over Chicago are sponsoring special events, lectures and workshops this year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and when Victory Gardens Access Project opted to sponsor a workshop for “front of house” (FOH) staff from theaters all over the city, I was asked to sit on a panel there with three other disability advocates to give tips on some of the special needs people with disabilities might have when we attend live performances.

Front of House encompasses all the things happening with the audience in the lobby and at the concession areas before, during, and immediately after a show — anything from selling tickets to handing out concessions to ushering. People who work front of house tend to do so because they enjoy working with people, they love live theatre and they’d like more people to come out to support and enjoy performances. From what I witnessed at the workshop Monday night, they are keen to include more people with disabilities in their audiences, too — I was pleasantly surprised by the large turnout. Nearly 100 FOH staff members were there, representing everything from storefront theatres to art museums to established art programs.

Whitney and I arrived an hour before our panel, and when we walked into the Biograph’s refurbished and stunning lobby I discovered two sign language interpreters giving a workshop about the things theatres should look for when hiring sign language interpreters for their productions. The presenters used their voices as they signed, which made it possible for a woman like me to eavesdrop. I did, and learned that the best theatre interpreters are ones who:

  • avoid signing every word — it’s more important to convey the overall story and allow the action on stage to tell the rest
  • prepare in advance — a presenter said she studies the written script and listens to recordings of the play for weeks ahead of her sign language performances and attends rehearsals and productions ahead of time to get a sense for the timing and determine which signs to use on the day of her sign language interpretation
  • agree to work in teams if the play has many people on stage at once who are talking over each other
  • use subtle movements, like widening their eyes or raising their eyebrows to add meaning to the words they’re spelling out
  • wear extra dark lipstick so audience members capable of reading their lips can see them better
  • wear dark clothes if they’re very light skinned so readers can see their hands
  • wear light-colored clothing if their skin is dark so readers can see their hands
  • take rings and bracelets off before they start signing

So many things I hadn’t ever thought of! Our panel afterwards went well, and it was a thrill to be on the Richard Christiansen stage at the Biograph Theatre with playwright Mike Irvin (founder of Jerry’s Orphans, which organizes annual protests against the Jerry Lewis telethon), Rachel Arfa, J.D.,(a staff attorney at Equip for Equality, a legal advocacy organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities) and Evan Hatfield (Steppenwolf Theatre’s director of audience experience).

Mike Irvin uses a wheelchair, Rachel Arfa uses bilateral cochlear implants, I use a Seeing Eye dog, and Evan Hatfield introduced himself by telling the audience he “Doesn’t identify as having a disability.” We took off from there.

The evening ended with answers to questions Front of House staff members in the audience had about touch tours before shows, wheelchair-accessible stages, captioning technology, and person-first language like “Mike uses a wheelchair” rather than “wheelchair-bound Mike.” Audience members shared the challenges and successes of accessing arts programs, the night flew by, and I think (hope!) we made a small difference.

Guess I can find that out the next time I attend a performance in Chicago — and I hope that’s very soon.

Someone special

This past week I asked the memoir-writers in my classes to write about “someone special” in honor of the 25th anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act. Mary Rigdon wrote about an athlete who uses a wheelchair and said his determination was the impetus for ensuring the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta were open to spectators who needed accessible seating.

I have a part-time job moderating the blog for Easter Seals National Headquarters in Chicago, and I liked Mary’s piece so much that we ran it as a guest post on the Easter Seals blog yesterday morning. Now I’m re-blogging it here for you Safe & Sound readers, too.

How the ADA changed my life: “there is nothing on earth like being there…”

by Mary Rigdon

Seating map for a basketball stadium showing wheelchair access points

Basketball stadium map showing accessible seating areas

My life changed drastically when the ADA was passed and I became the compliance officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit. I spent more time out of my cubbyhole office after that, interviewing folks with disabilities who raised complaints, choosing locations to inspect for compliance, and negotiating details of upgraded plans for expanded services for those with disabilities.

Our first real confrontation came with a large hotel at the downtown Renaissance Center. We decided to target that facility as it had hundreds of rooms, was used for multiple conventions, and was in the process of remodeling and updating the buildings. We reasoned that if this hotel agreed to the necessary upgrades, it would stimulate others to get on board with the ADA, too.

A graduate student who used a wheelchair accompanied us to demonstrate the need for rooms with accommodations– wider doors, room numbers lower on the wall with raised numerals and Braille designations, lower sinks in the bathrooms, and showers with no ledges to block entrance. After several months of negotiation we reached a compliance agreement and schedule which we publicized everywhere to pave our way into other venues — more hotels, lots of restaurants and theaters.

I enjoyed attending training sessions at the Department of Justice (DOJ) with people around the country who were dealing with these issues, too. DOJ added an entire new staff in the Civil Rights section to concentrate on the ADA, including one person with sight problems, one with hearing deficits, and feisty Joe, a speed demon in a wheelchair.

Joe was a fanatic wheelchair athlete, having played in a league during college and law school. From this background, he became a primary motivator for making athletic stadiums and sports arenas accessible to those with disabilities, particularly persons with special seating requirements. This was a long and hard-fought battle in many cases, and I cannot forget the excitement in Joe’s voice as he described his thrill in attending his first professional basketball game in person. “I love watching games on TV, but there is nothing on earth like being there at the stadium,” he said. “All that energy, hearing all those fans, seeing the court and watching the players right there — live and in person!

This determination was the impetus in persuading the Justice Department to press particularly hard for seating accommodations at the principal venues in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. It was with great fanfare that Deval Patrick, then the capable Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights, announced that 1% of the seats (850 of 85,000) in the main stadium would be wheelchair accessible with adequate sight-lines, and that those seats would all be near regular seating for accompanying family and friends. This was an historic first for an Olympic site.

Twenty-five years later I am glad to see the continuing ADA accommodations enacted, and when I see the names of my ADA comrades in the news I rejoice in their continuing dedication to the needs of people with disabilities.

Back to me. You can Visit to learn more about this important civil rights legislation.

Let’s keep working: today is the 25th anniversary of the ADA

Blind justice!When I finished college I got a job at the Study Abroad Office at University of Illinois. During one-on-one appointments with U of I students, I’d ask what they might like to study overseas, what sort of living arrangements they wanted, did they speak a foreign language, which countries they were particularly interested in, that sort of thing. I’d describe options available to them, make phone calls to other universities If U of I didn’t offer the option they wanted, and help with paperwork to get their credits transferred. I liked the work, I was good at it, and soon I was promoted to assistant director.

and then, in 1986, I lost my sight. My contract was terminated.

The Americans with Disabilities Act wouldn’t be signed into legislation until four years later. Today, July 26,2015, the ADA is 25 years old, and while I am celebrating all the progress we have made in a relatively short amount of time, I also acknowledge we have a lot more to do. One example: it’s 25 years after the ADA was passed, and the unemployment rate among people who are blind still hovers around 75%.

Here’s my work story: After my contract at University of Illinois was terminated, I attended a residential rehabilitation center for the blind, learned Braille and taught myself to use a talking computer. I applied for a job at the Study Abroad Office again after The Americans with Disabilities Act had been passed and made it through the first round of interviews. Even with the law ON my side, though, I didn’t get hired.

My husband Mike was the lucky guy who got to read the carefully crafted rejection letter out loud to me. Not a word about disability. The reason I wasn’t hired? My lack of recent work experience.

I applied for all sorts of jobs after that. One was with an emergency hotline that took calls from people whose pets have eaten a toxic substance. I emailed them for details. My note didn’t mention I was blind, or that I used a talking computer to send the email. Their response was enthusiastic. I was invited to visit the office to apply for the job.

A friend drove me to the interview. I heard the receptionist leave her desk abruptly as my friend helped me fill out the printed application form. The woman who walked out next was not the receptionist — she had a different stride from the first, and her bracelets jangled. Rather than greeting me, this new woman launched into a speech. Forms had to be filled out with every phone call that came in, she said. Her voice was shrill. The bracelets clattered. Every word had to be documented, she said. Every word by every person who calls the hotline.

I explained how I use a talking computer. I could create digital versions of the forms, complete them on the computer, print them out. “No,” she said. “They’re legal forms. They have to be filled out by hand.” I tried to squeeze out more details, see if maybe there were workarounds. But she wouldn’t listen. That was that.

It was a law suit waiting to happen, but even today, 25 years after the ADA was passed, these law suits are the burden of the person with the disability. To bring a case against that poison control hotline I would have had to pay a lawyer, file, wait months –sometimes years –hoping the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would accept my case. I didn’t file a complaint.

When Mike spotted another want ad for that same position in the paper weeks later, I sent another email asking for another interview. No email response.

A carefully worded letter arrived soon afterwards with task descriptions, each one specifically written to make it perfectly clear that a blind person couldn’t possibly perform them. The product of a legal consultation, I was sure. I got this sort of treatment more times than I care to tell you about. I don’t take it personally anymore, but back then it was painful. And confounding.

I guess it’s the same as other bigotries. Changing the law is one thing. Changing hearts and minds is another, and slowly, slowly those hearts and minds did start to change. As ramps replaced curbs, and theatres and sports facilities added accessible seating, and buses and trains and subway cars ran automatic announcements to call out each and every stop, and handicapped stalls were added to public restrooms, well, a funny thing happened. People with disabilities started eating out at restaurants, enjoying a night out at the movies, cheering on their sports teams at games, traveling on public transportation. People got more used to being around those of us with disabilities, and that familiarity made them more willing to take a chance on hiring us.

I wrote earlier this week about the University of Illinois in Urbana hiring me as a model for art students. After that, a Presbyterian church in Champaign hired me as a volunteer coordinator. When we moved to Geneva, Ill. a minor league baseball team found a job for me in their ticket office. In Chicago, a non-profit organization took me on as their Interactive Community Coordinator, and three different organizations hired me to lead memoir-writing classes. I am grateful to the School of Art and Design at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, McKinley Church and Foundation, the Kane County Cougars, Easter Seals National Headquarters, the City of Chicago, Lincoln Park Village, and the Center for Life and Learning for taking a chance on me. Their confidence in me has helped boost my confidence in myself.

I am also thankful to the legislators, demonstrators, advocates and lobbyists who worked so hard to get The Americans with Disabilities Act passed back in 1990. The next frontier? Bringing that unemployment rate down. Let’s keep working.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 922 other followers

Check out my FB page

October 2016
« Sep    

%d bloggers like this: