by Norma Draper

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is having its 30th Anniversary on July 26. It was signed into law on July 26,1990 by President George H.W. Bush.

The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. It prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local
government programs and services.

The ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities. It is modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

I recently listened to a lady who is now 56 tell her story about what it was like when she was in high school and there was no ADA. She said that in order for her to get to some of her
classes on the second floor she was carried up and down the steps by members of the
football team. She added that, being a teenager, she loved that part of being in a wheelchair.
I heard a story from another lady who was deaf and was not provided an interpreter.

In the years before the ADA there were no provisions for those who were blind, deaf, used a wheelchair, or had another other disability. They were forced to do the best they could.

Years ago my grandson Justin and I along with his service dog Hurley went into a store in our local mall. Immediately we were approached by an employee telling us that we could not bring a dog in the store. I told him that he is a service dog and he could go anyplace except a delivery room and an operating room. He said he needed to see documentation. I asked if he was familiar with the American with Disabilities Act. He said no and did not
care. I informed him that I thought he needed an education on the ADA and I was going to help him to get one.

When I arrived back home I immediately contacted ADA and made my complaint. They sent a
letter to the mall telling them that they needed to educate all employees there about the
ADA. The next time we went in the mall I made it a point to go into that store and no one said a word about Justin’s service dog.

We are very fortunate to have the American with Disabilities Act. I am thankful for
those who advocated so fiercely for the ADA to be signed into law.

Norma Draper, smiling, looking fabulous with bright pink lipstick and a yellow shirt.

*** Norma Draper is the grandmother of a young man who has multiple disables as a result of shaken baby syndrome as an infant. Norma has been an advocate for people with disabilities for more than 30 years, serving on numerous committees and boards including the Virginia Board for Disabilities, the Arc South of the James, and The Arc of Virginia.

She has been with the Center for Family Involvement since 2003. She currently serves as the Aging Families Specialist.

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