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ADA Anniversary: Wheels of Change Roll through Tennessee

PHOTO: The ADA Legacy Tour travels to 48 states over the next year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Photo courtesy of ADA Legacy Tour.
PHOTO: The ADA Legacy Tour travels to 48 states over the next year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Photo courtesy of ADA Legacy Tour.
April 14, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on a disability. On Wednesday the ADA Legacy Tour is due to make a stop in Nashville.

The tour includes information on how the landmark legislation has changed the lives of Americans like Carol Francisco of Nashville, who is blind. She says the ADA gives her a resource "in her corner" as she pursues accessibility in her hometown.

"You do what you have to do," she says. "It's just that you get tired of fighting all the time. You really do. But the ADA has made it easier to fight."

While things have improved since President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law in 1990, Francisco says Tennessee communities – including Nashville – have a long way to go. According to Francisco, the installation of additional sidewalks and crosswalks with voice-assist could help her navigate the city more safely.

Another Nashville resident, Emily Hoskins, was paralyzed at birth because of a tumor in her spine. She now works for the Center for Independent Living of Middle Tennessee, and helps educate businesses and individuals on the importance of having an accessible workplace.

"Unless you are directly impacted by disability," she says, "meaning you have a disability, or you have a family member or friend with one, you don't notice those things a lot."

While the ADA now mandates schools provide an education for people with disabilities, Francisco notes that wasn't the case in her youth, in her hometown.

"The high school could and did say, 'Okay, we're not taking you,'" she says. "That meant that I had to go away from home and stay at the School for the Blind, which I didn't really want to do. I wanted to stay at home and be with my family."

The ADA protects people in areas of employment, public transportation, accommodation and telecommunications services. Last year, more than 25,000 complaints were filed nationwide under the ADA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Of those, all but about one thousand were resolved.

The ADA Legacy Tour will stop at the East Park Community Center in Nashville on Wednesday, April 15, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN