Last Sunday, July 26, 2015, was the 25th birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act. President George H. W. Bush signed this law into effect on July 26th, 1990 as a civil rights bill for Americans with disabilities. The law is many pages long, but if you’d like to read about it, go to ada.gov.
Of course, passing laws does not necessarily make people better citizens. I still see people break the speed limit and run through stop signs on a daily basis. The ADA, though, has made people more aware of folks who have both physical and mental disabilities. Thank goodness for that! Physically disabled people now have better and easier access to public places. Congress listed in their “findings” several things which inspired them to create this law. For example, they found that: discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services.
The bill was/is an attempt to eliminate these kinds of discrimination, among other things. You can legislate some things, but you cannot legislate kindness. I know someone, for example, who had to threaten to stop taking her mother to a particular beauty salon because of the lack of kindness showed to her mother when she would roll in on her walker to the salon. The beauty salon conformed to the ADA standards by having a nice ramp up to the back door, with adequate parking for those with a handicap sign. Unfortunately, the hair stylists there like to gather out by the back door to smoke and eat their lunches, and were not very accommodating as she tried to get through the heavy door, roll through the tiny break room and into the salon area. One time the way was blocked by several boxes of hair products in the hallway, making it too narrow to pass through with a walker. My friend felt that the best approach to handle this was not to “call the authorities” and report this, using the “ADA” word. Instead, she told her mother’s hair stylist who was furious and as far as I know, this has not been a problem since then. But you still can’t legislate kindness and manners. Somebody’s mama and/or daddy has to teach their children some manners.
I want to focus on the “recreation” part of this finding (quoted above) by Congress. In December 2012, I wrote to my neighborhood association’s president and asked him if they (the board) could approach our city about doing some sidewalk repairs. Oh yes, he replied, the board had discussed this and had plans to work on this and would remind the person who was in charge of this. I never heard another word, but I did continue to wonder if anything would come of it.
There are several places in the neighborhood where tree roots in the medians have lifted up the sidewalk sections so high that a wheelchair or baby stroller would not go over it safely. If you were not paying attention, or had limited eyesight or it was at night, it would be very easy to trip over these sections. They’re unsafe.
When I was reminded this week that the ADA was celebrating its 25th birthday, I decided I would skip the middleman (the neighborhood association) and contact the city myself. Professorgrrl found that contact person for me online. (Thanks, Professorgrrl!)
I wrote the man in charge of city sidewalks, not expecting an answer any time soon. Oh me of little faith! He wrote back less than 12 hours later and asked me to send him the addresses of those places where the sidewalks are dangerous. A couple days later, I sent him a list of 8 places. And yesterday, less than two weeks later, he had been out and marked the places with cones and had the crews pull up the sidewalk sections for their “tree man” to take a look and see if anything can be done with those roots that are pushing up the sidewalks. How’s that for progress? Skip the middleman, I say.
Now, I will admit, a case could be made that my asking for these sidewalks to be repaired was a bit self-serving. There is certainly some truth in that. In 2012, though, when I initially wrote the neighborhood board president, it was because an able-bodied neighbor tripped over an uneven sidewalk section and became temporarily NOT able-bodied. And, when I wrote the board in 2012, I had no idea that almost three years later, I would be walking “nordic style” due to a fractured foot. Because of my own experiences, I felt an even more urgent need to seek some help from the city. As they say, “there but by the grace of God, go I.” It can happen to anybody. One day you’re walking, the next day you’re not. Or in my case, one day you’re waddling, the next day, you’re waddling more. In an instant, someone’s ability can change. I am lucky, in that I’ve always known deep inside of my potential for disability, that would come over a period of time. For my neighbor who tripped on a sidewalk, it was an instant. For my mother, who fell three months ago and popped her artificial hip out of joint, it was an instant. A painful instant. She is still recovering. I don’t wish this on anyone of my neighbors, even the ones who irritate me! (And, incidentally, my mother tripped over an uneven sidewalk many years ago and broke her knee. She was much younger and more able-bodied then, but accidents do happen, even to the young and able-bodied.)
All this has reminded me. Sometimes, you only have to ask. And you might get lucky and receive!
Copyright 2015, Banjogrrldiaries