by Larry Johnson
(Editor’s Note: Larry Johnson is a motivational speaker and author. Contact him at [email protected] or visit his web site at www.mexicobytouch.net.)
Sunday, July 26 is the 25th anniversary of the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. But who are they, these Americans with disabilities? Are they the people who work at Goodwill? At the Lighthouse? Those who live in group homes? Those who ride paratransit? Yes, they are all of these, plus perhaps someone in your family, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker.
Twenty percent of Americans have some type of disability. That’s 1 in 5. Some disabilities are quite visible, like mine (I use a white cane to get around), or like my friend Jim, who is in a wheelchair. Others are not so obvious, like high blood pressure, diabetes, a thyroid condition, hepatitis, cancer, or a history of depression, anxiety attacks or other mental illness. A disability is a condition which limits one or more of our major life activities.
Perhaps right now you are “temporarily” able-bodied. But what about your parents, or grandparents or uncles, aunts, cousins, or children? Why do I ask this question? Because I want you to realize that when we talk about Americans with disabilities, we’re not talking about some special separate group out there. We’re talking about us – all of us, everyone. Because, like it or not, one day you’re going to have a disability. It could happen as the result of an accident or illness. But if not, very definitely it will happen as you grow older; your physical body begins to deteriorate – your hearing, your vision, your mobility, your mind.
So, since you know it’s inevitable for you, and your loved ones, that one day you will acquire a disability, what are you doing to prepare for it? Think about what you might need if suddenly you can’t see so well, hear so well, or move around as well as you used to – in your home, in your neighborhood, downtown in a store or restaurant? What could be done that might make it easier for you or your grandpa? Better sidewalks. Better public transportation. More ramped entrances to buildings. Large print or braille menus in restaurants. More movie theaters with closed-captioned and audio-described films. And if you still want and are able to work? More employers willing to hire people with disabilities.
That’s what the ADA is all about. It’s about creating a more accessible, more friendly environment for all of us. It’s about including everyone in our community. It’s about valuing the unique talents and accomplishments of every individual and blending them together in a rich mosaic of limitless possibilities. The ADA offers us a marvelous opportunity to care for and care about one another.
ADA is a dream yet to be achieved. There remain miles to go before we rest. So, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, let me ask you to plan for your future by helping to change our present environment to make it easier, friendlier and safer for all of us who are part of this community, whether we have disabilities or not. And that’s how I see it.