Archives for posts with tag: ADA

With the health care situation in flux and Medicaid cuts looming, it seemed like a good year to do something public to celebrate the ADA while we still have it.  I approached some disability advocates in the community, the Center for Independent Living and a local health care advocacy group and they agreed.  My vision was for a public event where we handed out lemonade and chips, had booths with info about the Center for Independent living and the Aging and Disability Resource Center and displayed signs about “Don’t Cap or Cut Medicaid” and “ADA Matters”.

To make this happen in ten days, each of us took on several tasks.  I sought permissions from the police and the health department, made media contacts, recruited folks from the blind and Deaf communities and wrote a pep talk. One big learning from all of this was that things are more complex than you’d ever think. For example, I didn’t ask the Parks and Recreation Department if we could use the grassy plot near the farmers’ market. I blithely assumed it was public land and the police said that was okay if you don’t block motorists’ vision or sidewalks.  Or when it came to deciding to have the event or cancel because of likelihood of thunderstorms, I hadn’t even thought about power wheelchairs not liking to be out in thunderstorms.

Another learning for me is that compromising is good and leads to a better event in the long run. One gal wanted to bring a bubble machine. Bubbles don’t do much for blind people, so I scoffed a bit and figured out I could bring bells for blind folks to balance the bubbles. It turned out the bubbles attracted kids, which attracted their parents and great fun was had with both bubbles and bells.

Even though we weren’t allowed to hand out anything because we ended up escaping from the rain under the roof of the farmers’ market, the event was great. Lots of people with and without disabilities helped and many in-depth conversations about disability issues were held. Even the local newspaper story was respectful and got the facts right. Here’s my speech that somehow seemed to fit the tone of the event:

 

Happy Americans with Disabilities Act Day! Thanks for showing up to help our community celebrate the ADA and the Medicaid program.  Medicaid helps low income Americans of all ages get the services they need to live out the promise of the ADA for access.  My hopes for this event are that people learn about each other’s worlds. But that will take the bravery of asking other people how the ADA or Medicaid made their lives better and the bravery to tell pieces of your story to strangers not just throw out political sound bites.

The disability community has been the last group to achieve our civil rights with laws like the ADA in 1990 and the Help America Vote Act in 2002.

The disability community has some values I’d like to highlight today: resilience and a balance of independence and interdependence.  We feel the fear but do it anyway as we encounter attitudinal, architectural and communication barriers. We are problem-solvers and hard workers, just to get ready to get out the door sometimes. We’ve learned the truth of the Hopi Katchina Tehabi story “You see for me, I’ll walk for you”.  We’ve learned to ask for what we need and to give what we can. For example today I’ve asked Jeff to walk around with me being my eyes about who’s out there so I can greet them. I hope to learn some things about organizing from him too.  But I’ll also be educating him about the world of people with disabilities. So it’s a two-way street with the helping today. Both “please help” and “may I help?” are useful phrases for everybody.

As able, find a partner you don’t know and do the work of holding signs, conversing with people, handing out information or passing out snacks. Mix and mingle. Learn and grow and by all means have fun! Happy ADA Day!

After last year’s major push to get the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act celebrated locally by exhibits at libraries and a film showing, I decided this year to celebrate more privately by doing extra advocacy work and being mindful of all the access issues raised for me in a day of being an integral part of my community.

I started the day checking Facebook. Mainly inaccessible posts of pictures or pictures of words which Voiceover can’t read. But there were a few verbal updates and one quiz that was fun and accessible about what flower you’d be.  In case you’re wondering, I’m lavender. “Lavender: you have a soothing presence, people love your company and you always know how to make them feel better. You are thoughtful and considerate, often putting others first. You can make strangers feel at home. No matter how sad someone is feeling, you can always provide comfort and solace.” It was on Facebook, so it must be right, right?

Then I played a few rounds of trivia crack (mostly accessible these days), grabbed my first cup of coffee and settled in to check e-mail on my desktop computer. Windows 10 is working well for me, although I did have to pay $140 to upgrade my scanner to work with it.  “Free” Windows 10 wasn’t free in my book and I’m not sure it’s wonderful, but thanks to many people pushing Microsoft it is mostly accessible.

Next I talked to an intern from a law firm that is considering a class action kind of suit against a large company which has routinely ignored pleas for accessibility. If I told you who it was, I’d probably have to kill you, so don’t ask.  They became more interested in my stories when I was able to send them emails dating back five years pleading for access and offering to help with it.

I worked on arranging captioning and interpreting for the Schneider Disability Issues Forum in October at the university. I get to do 90% of the work for this event, but the university does provide clerical support and a couple of friends help pay for the speaker, captioner and interpreter.  I fear if I ever quit arranging it, it would cease to exist. In these lean times for universities in Wisconsin, nobody has time or energy to take on another worthwhile project.

I worked by email revising an article urging blind people to vote and describing accessible voting technology. The editor wanted me to clarify the sentence he’d highlighted. I’m not sophisticated enough to find highlighting using my screen reader (although I think it is possible). So he made a reasonable accommodation and pasted the offending sentence into an email for me to rewrite.

For lunch I microwaved a burrito (guessing at the time because instructions were not accessible). I punched in the time on my microwave which I’ve put bump dots on the 5, the 0, the start and stop keys. Flat screen technology has to be modified or equipped with voiceover to be accessible.  Bump dots (available at most hardware stores) are a cheap modification.

After lunch and a little nap I worked with a friend on a talk we’ll give in January about self-publishing. The accessibility pieces of it were my adding a sentence to the advertising about “If you have disability access needs, contact …” and my suggestion that we hold the talk in the community room of an assisted living facility.  I like breaking down barriers and retired folks may have the time and energy to write, so why not have the program there?

Then it was off to a book club for a great discussion of Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd.  We were also deciding on reads for the rest of the year.  One gal really wanted us to read a book by a friend of hers which was not available in accessible format. I will contact the author and ask if they’ll give me an electronic copy (like their last draft of the manuscript). Some authors will do this and some won’t.

The 26th anniversary of the ADA closed for me with another round of Facebook, Twitter, Trivia Crack and starting a thriller from the public library on CDs.  On the news I noticed that several references were made to disability issues by various speakers at the Democratic National Convention.  After 25 years, disability issues are out of the closet; maybe after another 25 years they’ll be mainstream issues. It was an ordinary day, doing projects and having fun but little of it would be possible without disability accommodations. Happy birthday ADA; live long and prosper!