The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Legacy bushas been touring across the United States for some months as part of the 25th anniversary celebration. The bus travels with important displays about the history of civil rights of people with disabilities in the U.S.
The Legacy Tour bus made one of its stops in Atlanta at the end of May while I was attending the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability (SITD). The SITD participants, people involved in diverse faith community disability inclusion initiatives, posed for a photo with the bus.
It’s the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jews played a major role in this landmark civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. However, their story remains largely untold. All of these Jews have been and continue to be heroes to the civil rights of people with disabilities in our nation. While they don’t have the title of “Rabbi,” each of them is a model of Jewish values in action. A new book, Enabling Acts, details the complete ADA history, which includes people from a variety of backgrounds.
Editor's Note: Over the next week, we will sharing a number of different voices reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the ADA. Be sure to follow and share!
Jubilation was in the air on July 26th 1990 when President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “And today, America welcomes into the mainstream of life all of our fellow citizens with disabilities. We embrace you for your abilities and for your disabilities, for our similarities and indeed for our differences, for your past courage and your future dreams,” President Bush asserted.
At last we were recognized as a part of the fabric of American society, history, and potential.
Most people who are hard or hearing or deaf do well in conversation with one or two people in a quiet room. They wear hearing aids to amplify sound waves coming into the ear; or they use cochlear implants, which bring sound directly into the hearing center in the brain. At celebrations, where there are more people, music, shuffling chairs and clinking tableware, much of the conversation is lost. By the time they locate the sound, turn their head to read the lips or otherwise catch what one person said, a person with hearing loss misses what the second or third individual has said. While communication is fine in the first setting, the communication breakdown in the second setting can be confusing. Family members and the person with hearing loss themselves may not realize what is happening or know how to restore the social bond.
Competition and the possibility of victory can awaken the American “can-do” spirit in us all. We rightly support initiatives for people with disabilities to compete in athletic events. Everyone should have the opportunity to strive (and even struggle) to achieve his or her “personal best.”
The Sports Dilemma
The parents of some children with disabilities face a dilemma every summer. If they send their children an integrated camp, the children may actually be segregated when it comes to the portion of each day devoted to athletic activity.
Lately it seems like I get most of my news from scrolling my Facebook newsfeed. Recently I came across an article about California’s Governor signing a law mandating that children be vaccinated before starting school.
The SB 277 law states that as of January 2016, children entering kindergarten or 7th grade must be vaccinated. If the child does not have his or her shots before the 2016-2017 school year, then he or she will not be allowed to enter any public or private school.
One of my primary responsibilities as the inclusion coordinator at URJ Camp Harlam, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania, is to make sure that campers with a disability (or a “different ability”) are set up for success at camp. We provide them with similar accommodations as the ones they have at home and at school, allowing them to experience camp to their personal best, in keeping with their abilities. This can often take careful planning, thoughtful conversations among partners, and communicating the right information in the right way to our counselors.
If you are anything like me, you eagerly await the summer months to finally make a sizable dent in that pile of books adorning your nightstand. My summer reading list typically includes a mix of young adult novels, professional books and a healthy handful of books for fun.
Here in the U.S., we are about to celebrate Independence Day. I’m from Philadelphia so July 4 is especially meaningful to me: After all, it was in the City of Brotherly Love that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.
July is another celebration of American freedom. July 26 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Americans With Disabilities Act, the ADA. The ADA has been widely recognized as the Civil Rights Act for people with disabilities. It's a recognition by our nation that people with disabilities are to be treated with respect and dignity.