The ADA Parties are a Bit Hard to Take

I wish I felt sanguine and celebratory about the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A party has been going on across the nation from the White House to community centers. I feel like John Lennon singing: “I don’t want to spoil the party so I’ll go/I’d hate my disappointment to show…”

Daily oppression rocks the disability community and for my money the celebrations have seemed glib. People with developmental disabilities and autism are shot and tasered and die in police custody. Universities sequester disability services, treating accommodations for students as a rehabilitation process rather than a matter of diversity inclusion. Most colleges and universities still treat the ADA with grudging, conditional acceptance, which means among other things, they look for ways to ignore it whenever possible. In turn, college students who are not disabled learn nothing about disability. They become the next generation of managers who believe its a rehabilitation issue rather than an inclusion issue.

So I’m not dancing. In my city (Syracuse) there is almost zero accessible housing for wheelchair users. Tomorrow a group of students and local activists will assemble at city hall to raise this issue. 25 years after the ADA. Imagine.

While people ate classy finger foods at the White House this week, there’s a powerful move afoot in Congress to drastically reduce funding for Social Security disability benefits for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Jeb Bush, a leading contender for the Republican nomination for President has argued it’s time to eliminate Medicare. Schedule B of Medicate keeps people with disabilities alive.

Not dancing. I feel as if the celebrations are taking place while Rome is burning.

What a sour puss!

As of today, only 25% of college students with disabilities actually graduate.

As of today, 70% of the disabled remain unemployed.

As of today, airlines destroy wheelchairs in transit at alarming rates.

As of today, public transportation remains marginally accessible in most cities.

As of today, I could go on and on…

Sour puss indeed.

“But Kuusisto,” you say, “haven’t we made significant progress since 1990? Can’t you see that?”

I’m not sure.  Most businesses and universities think of the ADA as “an unfunded mandate” and treat it with disrespect.

I’ll bet the hors d’oeuvres were splendid at the White House.

3 thoughts on “The ADA Parties are a Bit Hard to Take

  1. Keep talking, keep speaking up, keep fighting – these are making a difference. My child is eight years old and a non-verbal wheelchair user, and every day I bless those like you whose voices and efforts in prior years have made possible the access she DOES have to school, to medical care, to enabling technologies, to the hope for a meaningful, productive life. Keep in mind the parable of the starfish: here may be thousands of starfish on the beach, and that fact seems overwhelming, but each one that you throw back in the water feels for itself the difference you make in its life. Your fight has become my fight and is becoming my daughter’s fight, yes, but we ARE making progress.


  2. I think I understand and agree with you.
    I gave a short speech at our local ADA celebration.
    When my brother Ed Roberts took over in California as director of
    Vocational Rehabilitation in 75 after one year on the job I visited and asked how it was going.
    He said he was getting passive resistance to his policy to help the most severely disabled first.
    He likened his leadership to captain of a huge ship: he turns the wheel 180 degrees
    and the response is sluggish and grudging.
    I do celebrate the progress and aim of civil rights laws.
    As with women,blacks and gays we have an urgent and long way to go to change attitudes and enforce policies .


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