[tabi] 20th anniversary of the ADA here in Tally

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2010 16:44:43 -0400

from today's Democrat:
Tallahassee Democrat
Published: July 23, 2010

20 years later, ADA continues to serve those with disabilities
By Elizabeth M. Mack

Tiffany Wilson was born with rubella and never had sight in her right
eye. Growing
up in Laguna Hills, Calif., she attended school with other children who
were not
visually impaired. She sat in class unable to take notes and basically
had to learn
to remember everything the teacher said.
At night her sister Gina would read the textbooks to her. For important
she relied a lot on Gina to write or type assignments as she dictated.
"If I could be completely independent, I would have (been)," she said.
However, in
high school Wilson was a member of the track team and graduated from
Cerritos High
School in 1982 with honors.
"No one paid me any special attention," she said. "Back then, you just
made it. I
always just went along with the way things were. I think it would've
been hugely
different if the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) had been around
Wilson will be one of the hundreds in Tallahassee to participate Monday
in the March
of Opportunity celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ADA's enactment.
"I'm so thrilled that it has lasted for 20 years," Wilson said. "Through
the years,
it's been amended to better serve. They wrote it and stood by it - and
for that I'm
very proud. And 20 years from now, as situations come up, I know it will
be amended
to continue to serve everyone. It's just beautiful."
Melanie Etters, Agency for Persons with Disabilities communications
director, said
the march from Park Avenue down Monroe Street to the Capitol courtyard,
is hosted
by a partnership of disabilities organizations. The event starts at
10:30 a.m.
On July 26, 1990, the ADA was signed into law by President George H.W.
Bush. Its
purpose was to protect the rights of people with disabilities - a
mandate put in
place to stop discrimination in any form and allow equal access to the
same rights
and privileges as people without disabilities.
"The ADA has brought access to transportation, businesses and new
technologies for
people with disabilities. Classroom inclusion has opened doors for
children with
disabilities so they can prepare for their future and join the
workforce," said Linda
Parnell, chief of field services of the Florida Division of Vocational
Parnell said the agency is "committed to helping people with
disabilities find meaningful
careers and is proud to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the
Wilson, 46, came to Tallahassee in July 2006 to further her education
after being
denied a teaching position in Jacksonville because of her disability.
She attended
Florida State University and received her masters in visual
disabilities. She is
now the senior rehabilitation specialist with the Florida Division of
Blind Services.
"I enjoy what I do," she said. "I was a child with a visual impairment
and I know
how they feel. I think it's great that the department for the visually
impaired hire
people who are visually impaired, because we get it. And it helps the
parent to see
too that their child can be successful and have the same opportunity
that everyone
else has."
David Hand, job developer for the Florida Division of Blind Services,
believes discrimination
in the workplace is something that the ADA could still improve on.
"There's a lot of ignorance and prejudice," Hand said. "Employers are
afraid of accidents
at work and increases in insurance, but they can treat a person with
like they treat any other employee. And that's all that people with
want in the work place. They want to be seen for their abilities and not
for what
they can't do."
Bryan Vaughan, 47, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992. He has
been legally
blind since the end of 2001 due to optic neuritis.
Vaughan also faced workplace discrimination, losing his job in 2004
after serving
as a counselor at a correctional institution for three years. He said he
lost faith
in the ADA, having cited the law to protect his employment and yet was
still dismissed.
"A state agency official told me that they have sovereign immunity and
because they
were a state agency they didn't have to abide by federal law," Vaughan
said. "That
really put a bad taste in my mouth. It blew my self-esteem out of the
In 2007, Vaughan received a letter from the Department of Justice
admitting that
his rights were violated.
Vaughan is now the executive director for the Governor's Commission on
"I never thought I would be in a position like this," he said. "My job
now has reinvigorated
my view of the ADA. I've been able to see firsthand the change from the
of Justice and the government."
Vaughan believes the focus has shifted in the last couple of years from
a disabilities-right
to a civil-rights issue.
"Now is our time," he said. "People with disabilities can either come
together now
or we can sit back and miss the opportunity. I would like to get to the
point where
one day we won't need the ADA."
The law is perhaps best known for the physical accommodations made in
buildings and
public facilities.
"I think the physical accommodations in buildings need to be readdressed
for individuals
who use larger mobility devices such as electric wheelchairs, motorized
and walkers, especially for more public access to rest rooms," said Lynn
senior counselor for the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
"Also the number of parking spaces for people with disabilities should
be increased
and they should be close to the doors of the business and not down the
However, several advocates at local agencies, such as Judith Barrett,
Ability First
executive director, believe positive change for people with disabilities
will continue
to happen by continuing to make a stand.
"Over the past 20 years, things have gotten better," she said. "We have
come a long
way. One of our core services is encouraging our people to advocate for
and address systems change. Do not be afraid to tell your employer if
you need equipment
to help you continue to do your job. There's still that fear that they
may lose their
job or be looked over for a promotion. And that's something that we are
here to help
OTHER Disabilities Awareness Week EVENTS
Ability First will host a forum for candidates in the upcoming elections
at St. Paul's
United Methodist Church on Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Florida State University is hosting a Disabilities Awareness Week, with
a continuous
showing of "Invisible Voices" at Strozier Library. It starts at 10 a.m.

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