Friday, May 8, 2015

25th Anniversary of ADA

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Some legislators think it's time to dismantle it because its work is done.  Some disabled people disagree -- lots of public places are still not fully wheelchair accessible.
I think it needs to be expanded, not dismantled. 
Back when I was not "really" disabled (i.e., still able to work full-time), I had an interview for a job for which I'd been told I was the frontrunner.  As soon as it came out that I can't drive for medical reasons, they were no longer interested in me.  Driving would have been less than 1% of the job, and I was willing to pay a messenger service from my own pocket if the firm thought it was that big a deal, but they quietly rewrote the job description to include speaking Chinese, a skill I don't have but another applicant did, so that they could claim that I wasn't hired because I wasn't qualified.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court at the time had a habit of ruling that people like me were "not sufficiently disabled" to be entitled to protection under ADA, so I was not likely to find a lawyer to take the case.
Now I'm at the other extreme, where courts would rule that I'm "too disabled" and the accommodations I would need in order to work exceed "reasonable accommodation".  We now have fax, e-mail, GoToMeeting, file sharing in the cloud ... I've never understood why my asking to work at home (where I can lie down as needed) is so unreasonable, but according to interviewers and the courts, it is.
In fact, I went through a long battle with SSDI because while the appellate courts considered me "too disabled to work" even with ADA accommodations, the Disability judges insisted that I was "not disabled enough" and therefore not entitled to Disability benefits, either.  How can you be both "too disabled" and "not disabled enough"?!?!?!
ADA should be expanded to make sure that doesn't happen to others.  To make sure there are "teeth" in the law sufficient to prevent employers from discriminating against the marginally disabled for such minimal issues as not being able to drive on errands when 99% of the job is performed in the employer's office.  To make sure that SSDI judges are using the same standards as the appellate courts, and are subject to penalties for telling someone who is "too disabled" for ADA that they are "not disabled enough" for SSDI.  To make sure that there are adequate curb cuts -- while I don't use a wheelchair (yet), I do use a wheeled cart instead of wasting energy carrying things, and the other day I walked halfway around one side of a group of stores, all the way down a second side, and halfway around the third side, and still didn't see a curb cut from the raised sidewalk to the parking lot.  I finally took my cart down where the sidewalk was only about two inches above the asphalt, which was do-able for me, but not for someone in a wheelchair.  Even after 25 years of ADA rules, I guess whoever designed it didn't think of the number of elderly/disabled who use crutches or walkers, for whom having to walk all the way around a strip mall to get to the one and only curb cut would be exhausting and inconvenient, because even that two-inch step up would be hazardous for them.

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