Tag Archives: Americans with Disabilities Act

Disability Rights March and Rally July 26

Live not for Battles Won/ Live not for The-End-of-the-Song/
Live in the along. ~  
Gwendolyn Brooks

A generation ago, on July 26, 1990, President George H. W.Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Next Wednesday, July 26, Minnesotans who continue to struggle for the cause will gather at the State Capitol for the Disability Rights March and Rally. Advocates will celebrate the positive impact of federal legislation even as they let it be known that the struggle continues. (http://www.disability.state.mn.us/2017/06/02/disability-rights-march-rally/)  They will be coming together in a political and digital reality very different from that day of triumph in 27 years ago.

Clearly, this month’s March and Rally have great accomplishments to herald; signs of progress in implementation of the ADA are so commonplace as to be taken for granted.  As a refresher, take time to view this blog post created by a few creative souls determined to give voice to women with disabilities in the January 2017 Women’s March.  https://disabilitymarch.com

Today we live and breathe, study, work and play in a digital world.  As the possibilities for people with disabilities expand exponentially institutions of every sort, from mighty  bureaucracies to the faith community – struggle to seize the moment.  What’s happening on the institutional front – including plans still waiting on the digital launch pad – pushes the boundaries that were but a gleam in the eye of ADA advocates a generation ago.

For those who are immersed in meeting the challenge this is chance to capitalize on progress, to prove the power of collaboration, to share the word of what’s possible.  Organizations and institutions – small businesses, nonprofits, legislators themselves – may be unaware of the wealth of resources. The Rally offers an opening to share stories of digital possibilities.  This is chance to demonstrate the amazing tools of digital access, starting with the mega toolkit created by the Minnesota State Council on Disabilities. (http://www.disability.state.mn.us/digital-accessibility/). The challenge is to share a vision of dynamic intellectual participation that was a rare possibility “back in the day”

Equally important, as the nation is led to question the fundamental right to vote, the rights of people with disabilities are a concern to legislators as well as every voter.  This post might resonate with elected officials motivated to act in light of the March. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/sharing-the-right-to-vote-the-right-the-reason-some-resources/

Emcee of the July 26 March and Rally is Kristen Jorenby, Director of the Center for Accessibility Resources (CAR) at Metropolitan State University. (http://www.metrostate.edu/student/student-services-support/student-services/center-for-accessibility-resources

In a pre-Rally interview Jorenby underscored the urgency of the July 26 Disability Rights March and Rally:

Given the current political climate, the community is really concerned about cuts to healthcare, their ability to remain independent and cuts to transportation funding. We have problems within the system that continue to exist. The ADA is a huge civil rights act. And this [event] is really a chance for people to celebrate that and reassert that they have this civil right, and they are not going to let them be taken away.”

If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress ~ Barack Obama




ADA at 26: The celebration – and the challenge – continue

I don’t need easy. I need possible. ~ Bethany Hamilton

It was just a year ago we were celebrating the 25th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s time to rekindle and repeat the celebratory spirit – and to remember that the movement for inclusion and equality is not a sprint but a marathon. (https://www.minnpost.com/minnesota-blog-cabin/2015/04/celebrating-impact-ada-embracing-challenges-remain) Happily, the disabilities community is joining forces again this year to recharge us all

“Celebrating Diversity in Our Community” is a grand public event set for Tuesday, July 26, at the Minnesota History Center, 345 West Kellogg in St. Paul. The celebration begins at 3:00 with a keynote address by Ken Rodgers, Chair of the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities.

Beginning at 6:30 the focus is on fun! That fun includes a chance to get to know Angelique Leie, 2015 Miss Wheelchair Minnesota and to enjoy the artistry of members of the Young Dance Company. Then enjoy an evening featuring the classic rock & roll music of Tamarak.

Learn more about the very talented Angelique Leie and about the Miss Wheelchair Minnesota program here: http://blog.easystand.com/2015/04/ms-wheelchair-minnesota-2015-pageant/

Get to know the unique Young Dance Company here. http://www.youngdance.org/company-overview

Learn and listen to Tamarak here: http://www.tamarak.iwarp.com)

Accommodations for the evening include ASL interpreters, audio description and CART – and food will be available for purchase. The event itself is free and open to all.



ADA at 25 — Assessing the dream in real time, real lives

 It is not incumbent upon you to finish the job, however, neither are you

free from doing all you can to complete it.   Rabbi R.Tarfon

As an unreconstructed advocate for advocacy I cheer when elected officials “see the light”, when they muddle through the logistics, when they listen to the people, when they rise above personal gain to work for legal justice. And so I rejoice this year as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of passage of the monumental Americans with Disabilities Act. Experience tells us that well begun is just half done – and so we embrace the next challenge.

Legal justice has been done. To a great extent American institutions have followed the requirements as defined by law. We have ramps and bathroom stalls and elevators, a host of highly visible indicators of legal compliance with the law passed a quarter century ago.

And yet we sadly pause to reflect when Tim Benjamin, editor of Access Press, writes that “there is a crisis in the disability community and it been going on for years.”

Benjamin writes with passion about a harsh – and hidden – reality:

Over the years, dependency without support has created a sense of learned helplessness for many in the disability community. Too many people are in fear of not getting any of the care they need if they speak out. For too many, persistent attempts to control the uncontrollable become too difficult. Hope for the right public policies has its limits; wishful thinking about better luck with the next agency or next PCA is not a sufficient strategy. For some, believing there is nothing can be done to change the situation leads to resignation: “This is the way it is.”

What’s so difficult is that there are many people with disabilities who are employed and pay taxes, who are assets to their community, and are now, because of changes in federal health care law, facing the real potential of having to give up their jobs and their autonomy. These rule changes are compounded by a workforce crisis because of low wages and high demand for personal care assistants. If this catastrophe is not resolved, we may see hundreds or thousands of productive citizens having to move from the community into long-term care facilities—where the next catastrophe could occur. “over the years, dependency without support has created a sense of learned helplessness for many in the disability community. Too many people are in fear of not getting any of the care they need if they speak out. For too many, persistent attempts to control the uncontrollable become too difficult. Hope for the right public polities has its limits; wishful thinking about better luck with the next agency or next PC is not a sufficient strategy. For some, believe there is nothing can be done to change the situation leads to resignation.” http://www.accesspress.org/blog/2016/05/10/editors-column-may-2016/

Bottom line, Benjamin asks ”What was the point of the ADA and in Minnesota, the Olmstead Plan, creating laws for community integration, for educational and job opportunities, transportation, accessible facilities and public infrastructure, when people with disabilities don’t have staff to get them out of bed? What were all these millions spent in the first place?”

The fact is, the vast majority of us, know far too little about the physical and political barriers faced by those we do not know or even see in our daily lives. We are disinclined and ill prepared to assess the needs much less to take action.

We leave concerns of people with disabilities to the individuals and their families and to advocacy groups who are immediately involved. If the law needs to be amended, it falls to them. If enforcement of the law is overlooked, we are unaware and politically impotent. We assure ourselves that engagement with the needs of people with disabilities will land us in a complicated legal and regulatory conundrum best left to the “disabilities community.” Besides, aren’t we just this year celebrating that this fight for justice has been won.

The fact is, acronyms notwithstanding, the concerns of challenged colleagues are basic human needs. If we have the will to understand, the tools are at the ready.  A couple of starting points:

  • Or make it a habit to pick up Access Press on free newsstands everywhere. Better yet, subscribe online at http://www.accesspress.org/subscribe/. It’s a great read for anyone who thinks and cares about disability rights, including the inalienable right to access to information.




Arts Access Chautauqua draws broad constituency, invites public participation

The Cowles Center for Dance & Performing Arts, always overflowing with energy, will be more than ever bursting with artistic spirit on Friday and Saturday, September 25-26, when the state’s vast community of artists with disabilities, arts administrators and arts participants will gather for the Minnesota Arts Access Chautauqua.

The Arts Access Chautauqua marks the first time since 1992 that all the players will come together to identify challenges, explore opportunities and, most of all, to “recognize and show artistically the emergence of people with disabilities as active members of the Minnesota arts community.

Sponsoring organization is VSA Minnesota which now makes its home in the Hennepin Center for the Arts, the Education Wing of the Cowles Center.**

The Chautauqua agenda features a huge array of forums, presentations, showcases for participants and occasions for exchange of ideas and hopes. There are presentations on arts access in Greater Minnesota, on theatrical interpreting, and a host of others including one on “Making your website accessible” that should certainly have appeal to a broad audience. All are listed and annotated, with background information on presenters, on the Chautauqua website. Learn more by clicking on http://vsamn.org/join-us-for-the-minnesota-arts-access-chautauqua.

There will also be a public performance involving Minnesotans with and without disabilities who will speak, perform, exhibit and discuss as musicians, actors, storytellers, dancers, writers, visual artists, arts administrators and audiences. Tickets for the public not attending the Chautauqua are just $15, students/seniors $8. There is also a visual art exhibit and sale with artwork by more than 30 Minnesota artists with disabilities.

Registration costs are minimal. A day’s registration includes breakfast and lunch. Friday’s registration includes the 7:30 p.m. performance and reception. Registration for both days is $60 after September 16, $70 at the door. Friday only $40, Saturday only $30. Questions about registration? Contact shelia@vsamn.org or info@vsamn.org or call 612 332 3999 or 800 801 3883.

Funding for the Arts Access Chautauqua is made possible by a grant from the State Arts Board with funds from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

** Note for out of touch readers like me, VSA Minnesota is now the official name of the organization once known as Very Special Arts Minnesota. The name change reflects the fact that “words such as special, very special and handicapped do not reflect language trends in the United States and many other countries”.)

The Disabilities Rights Movement – Celebrating the impact of ADA, embracing the challenges that remain

The history of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) did not begin on July 26, 1990 at the signing ceremony at the White House. It did not begin in 1988 when the first ADA was introduced in Congress. The ADA began a long time ago in cities and towns throughout the United States when people with disabilities began to challenge societal barriers that excluded them form their communities, and when parents of children with disabilities began to fight against the exclusion and segregation of their children.

Writing in 1992, Arlene Mayerson knew well the stories and the struggles of the thousands of people who turned personal challenges into a movement. As Directing Attorney of Disability Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) she was in the thick of it all. As lecturer at Berkeley Law School she continues the good fight.

Every American, able or challenged, has experienced the impact of ADA. In fact, ADA has is so imbedded in our daily lives that it is difficult to realize that it is just a quarter century since passage of that federal law. Still, on July 26, 2015 the nation will celebrate the changes wrought in our society over the past 25 years.

It is not too soon for organizations and institutions, schools, the faith community, children’s groups, social service and government agencies, health care providers, senior groups and families to start thinking ahead about how to best join in the celebration.

The good news is that leaders of the disabilities rights cause have gathered and produced an awesome selection of resources, events, and tools to spark interest and support local initiatives.

For those of us who may have experienced but never fully realized the societal changes of which we were a part, Arlene Mayer’s brief history, written in the wake of passage of ADA, offers an informative – and highly accessible – review of the roots and growth of the movement.   (http://dredf.org/news/publications/the-history-of-the-ada)

The ADA Legacy Project (http://www.adalegacy.com) is a major initiative to honor the progress that has been made while reminding us that much remains to be done.   One of the goals of the ADA Legacy Project is to honor the contributions of individuals with disabilities and their allies who persevered in securing the passages of this landmark civil rights legislation. There is an ADA Anniversary Tool Kit, suggested themes, a media kit, proclamations, pledges and more. (http://www.adaanniversary.org)

My personal favorite of the ADA Legacy Project resources is a collection of “Moments in Disability History” selected from the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities website and archives. (http://www.mn.gov/mnddc/ada-legacy/index.html) The collection of “moments” includes audio and video clips, historical documents, images and slides covering the decades that led up to the passage of the ADA. “They are the ‘moments’ every self-advocate, parent and professional advocate should know and be literate about in order to create future policy. The collection of “moments” creates a common ground for study of the disability movement. The prime mover behind the “moments”, Ed Preneta, notes that “the events, or aftermath of the events, changed history and their impact resonates with us today.”

Though I have not yet plumbed the depths of the Disability History Museum (http://www.disabilitymuseum.org/dhm/index.html) it is intriguing and inviting. The Museum is actually a virtual project “designed to offer people with or without disabilities, researchers, teachers and students with a wide array of tools to help deepen their understanding of human variation and difference, and to expand appreciation of how vital to our common life the experiences of people with disabilities have always been.” The virtual museum includes over 300 primary source documents and images, many designed to show young people who take access for granted the challenges that faced people with disabilities before the movement.   The virtual museum also features information about the situation in developing countries with special reference to the UN Convention on Disability Rights. (http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml)

As we celebrate ADA we must be mindful of 21st Century challenges and possibilities. In the past quarter century technology has changed the nation and the world –and the options for people with disabilities. Today’s challenge is to assure that we capitalize on the potential of technology to expand – not limit – opportunities for everyone. The 25th anniversary offers an opportunity to honor the triumphs to date with a clear eye on future possibilities. An earlier blog post focused specifically on efforts to expand access to government information for people with disabilities. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/category/disability-issues/

The story of the Americans with Disabilities Act is long, complex and inspiring. It is a story of individuals and families, institutions and organizations that saw a need and summoned the strength to create and sustain a movement. This is a story we all need to learn, remember and emulate. What better time than the celebration of ADA at 25!   More to follow…

Related Poking Around posts:









Access Press at 25! A quarter century of serving and reflecting Minnesota’s disabilities community

Access Press is celebrating its 25th Anniversary!  Congratulations are in order – and thanks!   So also is this post which I hope is redundant for many regular readers of this monthly treasure trove of information about the disabilities community. 

The mission of Access Press is “to promote the social inclusion and legal rights of people with disabilities by providing a forum for news, features, opinion and conversation to benefit people who are often invisible and marginalized in mainstream society.”   In truth,  Access Press is really the indispensable window on the world to what’s happening in the disabilities community, a community so robust that it can be difficult to understand if one does not feel a member.  With Access Press, we can all keep up, understand and participate.

Happily, after a quarter century, many Minnesotans have honed the habit of picking up the monthly Access Press – or, better yet, making sure there’s a drop site of the indispensable publication in every possible public space!  In fact, there are approximately 300 sites around the state where, on the 10th of each month, bundles of Access Press are dropped off for free and easy access.  In addition to the printed publication, the paper is produced in audiotape format using a special radio channel for people with visual impairments.   Keeping apace with technology, the articles from each edition are also posted on the Access Press website (http://www.accesspress.org)– or, if you just can’t wait for the 10th of the month, keep up with the print edition by following Access Press on Facebook and Twitter!

For those who have some catching up to do, the 25th anniversary is a good time to look back.  In the May 2014 issue Managing Editor Jane McClure offers a history note that tells the story of the newspaper, tracing the origins of the newspaper from the launch of Access Press on the brink of the vote on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  (http://www.accesspress.org/2014/05/history-note-a-look-back-through-the-pages-of-access-press/)  In fact, every month Access Press carries a History Note, reminding readers of the laws, the issues, and the leaders who have made a difference in the struggle of Minnesotans and Americans at large to create an inclusive community.

The June 2014 issue offers a great review of the legislative accomplishments of the most recent legislative session – issues that include a range from safe schools (bullying) to autism to expanded funding and more,  There’s also a synopsis of what’s coming up on Radio Talking Books and other audio options,  notes on accessible events, even advance notice of the Americans with Disabilities 24th Anniversary Celebration, Friday July 25 at DHS.

Though this is but a snippet of Access Press, it ‘s easy to see why the paper is a must read.   Check out the website for the latest edition of the newspaper and much more, including the story behind The Real Story, a documentary film exploring media coverage of the disability issues in Minnesota.  Produced by Access Press and narrated by Kevin Kling, the documentary explores the biases in media coverage of disability issues in Minnesota and nationally and examines the role of grassroots and mainstream media outlets in reporting on stories important to all people with disabilities. 

Tim Benjamin has been Editor-in-chief of Access Press since 2001, assuming the position on the death of Charlie Smith, founder, publisher and long-time editor.  (http://www.accesspress.org/2001/05/welcome-new-access-press-editor-tim-benjamin/)    Tim’s monthly column always offers a thoughtful summary of what’s happening and a reminder for readers to get up and do what needs to be done – to keep up with the news and resources, to learn and understand those who “are often invisible and marginalized in mainstream society”, to share the wealth of information found on the pages of Access Press with friends, family, and colleagues, to take action (e.g. in support of Disability Viewpoints on community cable), and to be certain that Access Press is on the distribution list for events and resources of interest to people with disabilities, their families and organizations who serve the disabilities community.