This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is responsible for the wheelchair icon in the convenient parking spaces, for the Braille numbers in the elevator, for the accommodations made for students with learning differences in the classroom, and for closed captioning on television. It has provided people with all kinds of physical and mental disabilities access to places and experiences that the majority of people in America take for granted. New York’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio even declared July “Disability Pride Month” in the city. All of this is very much worth celebrating.
And yet, while people with disabilities have more access to opportunities and experiences than ever before, to assume that that ADA has remedied the problem of exclusion and prejudice against people with disabilities would be like assuming that the Civil Rights Act remedied racism. Such prejudices and the oppression they engender reach deep into our hearts; they involve our deepest fears and insecurities.