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Archive for July, 2010

Happy 21st Birthday ADA

Making a statement with sculpture
Creative Commons License photo credit: Squeek

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed July 26, 1990. This is an update from the 20th anniversary post.

First Hand Discrimination is a Shock

Around 1985 our family was on a thousand mile camping trip to visit my sister in Phoenix, AZ. Aaron was about 10 years old, Tommy 8. That morning we packed up our tent and stopped about 10 AM in a Big Boy type restaurant in Flagstaff. We purposely chose a later time to miss the rush. We had eaten at similar restaurants each day of our trip.

We were sitting in a corner booth watching cars go by. Aaron was acting great, just eating his eggs and pancakes.

When the manager came up to the table we just smiled and expected him to ask if everything was okay. Instead, we got the shock of our lives. We were being asked, no told, we had to leave that minute. He would escort us out (after we paid our bill.) Couldn’t even finish our orange juice.

It seems someone complained they didn’t like the way Aaron looked. Not that Aaron was having a tantrum, or throwing things or … just didn’t like the way he looked. When I asked to be able to speak to that person we were told “NO, now get out. We don’t want your kind in our restaurant.” Me, being the great advocate I am, I just burst into tears, grabbed Aaron and ran to our car.

25 years later, I can still feel the pain and stigma of that experience as if I were living it right this minute. It was a transformational experience because it beat the fact in my head that we were not a normal family. Today that would not happen and the difference is ADA.

July 26, 2010 marks the 20th Anniversary of ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act. The Declaration of Independence may have taken place in 1776 for white male property owners, the civil rights of women and people of color happened in the 1960s, but many people with disabilities, their families and friends think of the 1990 ADA as our civil rights act.

The international symbols were a welcome relief.

Here are outside facilities in Santos, Brazil. The international symbols saved the day.

Accessibility is for everyone

There has been tremendous progress in the last 20 years to change attitudes, fight discrimination and give people some opportunities in jobs, education, technology, and communications… a whole lot more than just curb cuts and handicapped parking places. But there is so much more to do.

In a later post, I will talk more about accessible websites. I’m trying to find more information on the official “Bobby Approved” (think English Bobby–police officer) which rates websites for being friendly to people with disabilities. There is a little blue police icon in the corner of many websites–well, maybe not many–but at least some.

ADA.Gov Official Website

If you have a couple minutes check out the official website of ADA. Information and Technical Assistance for the Americans with Disabilities Act/a>

Recommended Historic Films

There are five films: ADA Signing Ceremony, My Country, Ten Employment Myths, Ten Small Business Mistakes, Police Response to Disabilities

Synopsis of ADA Signing Ceremony

This video documents the speech given by President George H. W. Bush when he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law on July 26, 1990. In the video, President Bush speaks to a huge audience of activists, Congressional supporters, people with disabilities, and their families and friends gathered on the south lawn of the White House.

The 22-minute film, provided to the Department by the George Bush Presidential Library, is being re-released on the Internet to increase awareness of the ADA.

Synopsis of My Country

“My Country”

In this one-hour documentary, symphony conductor James DePreist, who contracted polio as a young man, profiles three people with disabilities whose lives have been shaped by the struggle for equal rights. Mr. DePreist is the nephew of African American contralto Marian Anderson, who in 1939 was prevented from singing at Constitution Hall. He draws parallels between racial barriers and the barriers faced by people with disabilities.

ADA Timeline

Our friends at the MN Governor’s DD Planning Council have this awesome resource on the timeline of ADA.

2011 Update

Ohio Legal Rights released this press release about the 21st anniversary of ADA.

We still have much to do and with the budget cutbacks threatening basic services for people with disabilities, this is a time of great stress.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,



Do you have any stories to share in the comments? I know many people think the government is too large and there are too many laws. What are your experiences with ADA? What do you think is the role that government should play to protect the civil rights of vulnerable people?

Shouting my COMMITMENT!

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art: Washington Crossing the Delaware
Creative Commons License photo credit: wallyg

Is Anybody There? Does Anybody Care?

Each of us has transformational moments in our lives.

One of mine was watching the musical 1776. In one scene the night before the vote on independency, John Adams reads a letter from George Washington and using his words, sings about “commitment.”

These founding fathers used words and actions to create a form of government that never existed before. They were visionaries, they were leaders. Seth Godin would say they were Linchpins, they shipped.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is 20 years old July 26, 2010

Since Aaron was born, in my small way, I have taken a stand for the civil rights of people with severe disabilities.

With ADA they now have a chance at the American Dream of our forefathers. The dream is not a promise, it is still only a dream for most of us, but there is the possibility–the hope.

Dedicated parents and professionals of people with disabilities answered the call: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?” Their work and sacrifice have made it possible for Aaron and others to grow up with their parents and families; go to school with their brothers, sisters and neighbors; and learn skills that will help them after they graduate for the 40, 50, 60 years of the rest of their lives.

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) they can live in the community of their choice; and with luck have people who will care about them.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1975

In 1975 when we were first learning of Aaron’s intellectual disability, an inclusive life was just the dream of a few parents and professionals. Now, in 2010 we have better attitudes, laws, research and information. We have made tremendous progress, at least for school-age kids. But like other civil rights movements we do not have all the answers, we have not reached the top of the mountain–especially when it comes to the lives of adults with disabilities.

I was interviewed last week by a university student who was taking a class on people with exceptionalities. His assignment was to interview a parent who had lived during the early days of IDEA and compare “inclusion” with the “continuum of services.”

We talked about the Disability Civil Rights Movement, we talked about the definition of inclusion and how some professionals have bastardized the word, we talked about taking a personal stand and making a commitment.

As I prepared for the interview, it felt good to go through my files and pull the documentation of what we have accomplished in the past 30 years.

See (Parallels in Time if you are interested in a history) on the other hand, it was shocking that inclusion is still a controversial issue.

I know old paradigms die hard, but it is more than that.

There are some people who will never give up their segregated and “special” attitudes and values. Some people who will forever fight for keeping the status quo and the charity model. And, it is no secret that No Child Left Behind–left our children behind.

In future blog posts I will talk about this journey, but for now I am just going to say there is a resource page that will have some contact information.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,


In the comments: What do you think? Is anybody there? Does anybody care?

Parents + Caregivers| Climbing Mountains

Creative Commons License photo credit: bjarnit

Climbing Every Mountain: More than a Song

My life journey has been to try and create an inclusive world where everyone belongs, a decent quality of life for my family, and particularly my son Aaron who has the label of autism.

“Aaron” means high mountain

My husband and I have always loved the mountains. In hindsight, maybe instead of naming our first born “Aaron,” which comes from the Hebrew meaning “high mountain,” we should have chosen a different name which meant something like “gentle stream” or “quiet brook.” 🙂

Climb Every Mountain

In 1965, I was part of a small group of aspirants who put on our Sunday black veils and were given special permission to go “into the world” to see The Sound of Music in a real movie theater.  When Mother Superior started singing Climb Every Mountain, me–Mary the aspirant– prayed that I too would find,

“a dream that will need all the love you can give, every day of your life for as long as you live.” 

Perhaps another misstep. Seems that God chose to answer that prayer. But then, Helen Keller who knew a thing or two about disabilities, wrote: “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.”

So climbing every mountain, my life continues to be an incredible daring adventure and though I get discouraged and exhausted, I feel blessed and know I am making a difference.

For Parents and Caregivers of People who have Disabilities and are Elderly

As parents and caregivers of vulnerable people each of us is climbing our own mountain. Each of us is searching for courage and fellow travelers. Often in our real world, our family, friends and even the professional staff who are being paid to help us don’t share our vision. When my parents turned 80 and physically became vulnerable, I was able to use many of the lessons and information I learned with Aaron to help them improve their quality of life. There are many similarities for those who can look past the stigma of “disability.”

Make a Comment, Join our TEAM

I am hoping you will want to join this community of climbers and paradigm pioneers as we prepare emotionally and practically for the journey to the summit.

I am hoping you will consider this site a sort of Base Camp where we gather to dream dreams, trade resources and share the personal stories that make each of us a unique gift to this world.

I am hoping you will add comments and chat with us. I’m hoping you will sign up to “Get New Posts” (top left on homepage) and be notified by email each time a new article is posted.

Climbing the Blogging Mountain

Experience with including my son and other vulnerable people into the community–I have, but I’m trying hard not to panic as I begin this new journey into websites and blogging.

I’m hoping the great stories, useful tips and information will make up for my lack of tech “savyness”. And yea, if we are going to be trying to create a new inclusive world that never existed before, I will make up words from time to time.

Welcome! As life puts new mountains before us, grab onto that life rope and climb with us.