“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” – President George H.W. Bush at the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
When PVA was founded in 1946 by veterans returning home with spinal cord injuries, these veterans and others with catastrophic disabilities faced life in an institution because society wasn’t prepared for them.
Wanting to move down a sidewalk without curb cuts would require rolling dangerously into the street. Buildings had stairs and no ramps. Parking near a destination might not be available and even if it was, there wouldn’t be enough space between the lines to load or unload your wheelchair. Stores, businesses, museums, parks, transportation, and restrooms – they were all inaccessible to someone who was paralyzed.
Thirty years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) changed all that, making the world much more livable and accessible for those who use wheelchairs. The ADA provides “a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination”- because every human being deserves the right to shop and participate in recreational activities; run errands; conduct business; hold a job; and move about their communities freely.
PVA believes so strongly in this civil right, we were instrumental in getting the ADA passed. We were there in the halls of Congress knocking on doors of representatives, our members testified to its importance, and we were there on the White House lawn on July 26, 1990, when George H.W. Bush signed it into law.
It was a great victory that has opened up a world of independence for our members and others with disabilities; but for all the progress the legislation has made, we acknowledge there is still work to be done.
Not all aspects of the ADA are enforced, and many businesses are reluctant to make the changes they need to accommodate patrons who are disabled. Our members report frequent obstacles as they go out into their communities – which can severely impact their quality of life.
That is why for 75 years, PVA has been a leading advocate for disability rights. Today we continue to fight against efforts to weaken the ADA, and strongly advocate for legislation that promotes compliance with the law.
We tend not to care about or be aware of accessibility challenges until they happen to us or someone close to us. But even if it doesn’t impact you today, you may find that tonight, tomorrow, or in ten years you are unable to live fully and freely in our world as a result of injury or simply aging into mobility problems.
That is why PVA believes accessibility is important, and why we will continue to work every day to break down barriers for paralyzed veterans and all people with disabilities. Throughout 2020, we will share accessibility resources, shine a light on issues facing those with disabilities, and seek to overcome the myths and misconceptions about the ADA – so together, we can get closer to a truly accessible world.
We invite you to join us on our mission at pva.org/ada.