The ADA and 25 Years of Breaking Down Barriers

July 26 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA and its subsequent amendment, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), are considered the civil rights law of the land for people with disabilities; and the number of qualified individuals who are now covered by the ADAAA has grown considerably.
The law has no political affiliation. Political partisans of every persuasion are keenly aware of the fact that a “disability is a natural part of the human condition” and that there are benefits to living and sharing a life that is inclusive and free from physical and attitudinal barriers.
I am reminded that several years ago, the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands (DRCVI) in collaboration with the Virgin Islands Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities had undertaken an 8 week Disability Independence Campaign that involved weekly press conferences and a series of litigation. During our campaign, a Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities member began each press conference with a reading of his poetry that illustrated the difficulties of living in the U.S. Virgin Islands with a disability. During week six of our campaign, he presented the following:
“No Room at the Inn”
This is not a new story, from days of glory
They say there’s no room at the inn
So for tourist and locals, we all must beware
of the hazards of just checking in
No disabled parking, or ramps near the steps
and the counters and phones are too high
The bathroom too small, no rails in the stalls
ADA most hotels don’t comply
So again to the courts, legal briefings and torts
to obtain our (own) civil rights
You can have the court cost, for being the boss
and the hotels can leave on the lights….
After two thousand years, there is still no room at the inn.

T. Jameel Muhammad — (August 7, 1997)
The Disability Independence Campaign resulted in a recognition that a significant sector of our community had been simply ignored for far too long. That campaign was a wake-up call that people with disabilities have rights and that their lives matter too.
Over the years disability rights advocates have witnessed commendable efforts to remove architectural barriers in our community such as creating designated parking areas, building ramps and curb cuts, providing accessible public transportation services, and designated seating in movie theatres.
There is much more work to be done.
Editor’s note: Amelia Headley LaMont is the executive director of Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands.
 

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