Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary–25 years–coming up

My granddaughter Raya recently noticed the bumps on the sidewalk at an intersection. “Mommy,’ she called, rubbing the soles of her shoes on the cement, “these bumps are for Nini.”
In a beautiful picture book by the sweet rising star, Matt de la pena, Last Stop on Market Street, she immediately pointed out the blind man on the bus. Raya’s other grandmother is disabled, too, in a wheelchair, so Raya comfortably tells people that Safti can’t walk and again observes others in wheelchairs with ease.
When she was only six weeks and her parents planned her baby naming ceremony, I overheard my son-in-law say in a phone conversation with the cantor, “Well, I don’t think either grandma will be able to light the candles.” His mom is quadriplegic, and I might start a great conflagration.
It’s routine for our grandchildren to grow comfortable with disability. Less so for other children without similar grandparents. But I still think children and all people today grow more and more familiar with disability. We with disability are so visible.
How different from the time that I grew up. How different from even forty years ago.
In graduate school at Pitt, my professors didn’t have a clue how to test me. I asked that they get an empty room for me, and I would bring a typewriter and a sighted person to read the exam to me. No matter how often I faced exams, I ended up taking them all in the ladies’ room.
Today there is a person in charge of disabled students and their needs. Today there is so much more access to education, employment, housing.
This is thanks largely to the Americans with disabilities Act, almost 25 years old now. Think of the transportation help out there, Access through PAT transit. There is improvement in every category. Yet, 60% of people with disabilities are still unemployed and many underemployed. Think of the access those in wheelchairs have to homes in hilly Pittsburgh. Obstacles still abound in finding housing without stairs. And Pittsburgh is much more accessible than many cities and certainly more than most towns. Yay for the ADA, but more is needed.


About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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