It was a momentous day. Huuuuuuuge, I tell ya. July 26, 1990: a Thursday and the 207th day of that year.
Why do I think that, you might be asking yourself. I wasn’t even born yet!
On this day, legislation known as the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. Today, 26 years ago, the federal government expressed a direct and concerted interest and effort into make my quality of life better as an American with a disability. They showed care toward my experiences that I would have in the future in the hiring process, in public environments, with the government, and more. This is the anniversary of that very, VERY important day when disability rights were realized as civil rights.
Whenever I reflect on my experiences so far as a man with a disability that is also an American citizen, I can’t help but reference the ADA. I’ve never lived in a world where the ADA legislation was not in effect. Therefore, it’s been much less likely that I would experience a violation of my civil rights in any situation simply due to my disability.
This is a reality that can’t be said for folks around the world. Frankly, this entire website and speaking endeavor and my quality of life would not be possible if not for the ADA.
As I work more and more, particularly through HESONWHEELS, with folks with disabilities from other countries, I realize that they are not afforded the same opportunities and protections that American citizens with disabilities are. Laws aren’t the same, advocacy opportunities aren’t abundant, and accessibility looks very different, of course, country by country. I think this world view is crucial to understanding the notion of privilege when it comes to being able to lead a relatively normal life in the states, as a contributing member to society.
As I continue my work in social justice and through this blog, I plan to continue to work toward learning more about international accessibility and disability laws, for the simple fact it would make me a better person. When it comes to “doing for other people,” that motto doesn’t stop at any quality including disability. I have been blessed to meet advocates for disability rights from other countries and explain to them what the ADA is all about – and they often express interest in developing something similar for their own government. I can’t wait for that to happen. And, then, I can’t wait to visit. :)
For now my wanderlust, which is largely guided by my own definition of accessibility, will continue to guide that search.
Cheers to the ADA.