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30 Years After ADA: Stronger Voices

The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed by President George H. W.  Bush in 1990, is considered the benchmark law guaranteeing civil protections for those with disabilities. (Adobe Stock)
The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, is considered the benchmark law guaranteeing civil protections for those with disabilities. (Adobe Stock)
July 20, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Many people living with disabilities say becoming a self-advocate is one of the benefits afforded by laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, which took effect 30 years ago this month.

The milestone anniversary officially occurs on July 26th, and it's being celebrated by the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council and other groups.

The law brought civil protections in areas such as workplace discrimination, while also resulting in public accommodations.

Brady Werger, a council member from Glenwood, says living with conditions such as bipolar disorder has its challenges. But through policy changes enacted over the decades, he was able to speak up for opportunities in his life.

"The more you advocate, the more you will find out what's out there as far as services and things," he points out. "And that's what I did to get into the community where I'm at now."

Despite advancements, advocates still see challenges, including transportation access in rural areas, and new construction not always being in compliance of the law. And they say enforcement isn't always easy.

Meanwhile, advocates say ADA is unique because society in general has benefited from the law, citing baby strollers used on access ramps, and the rise in text messaging, which initially was used by people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.

As for the community support described by Werger, self-advocates credit the Developmental Disabilities Act, now in its fifth decade.

This year, the council is sharing inspirational stories tied to that separate law.

Executive Director Brooke Lovelace says the project shows how the people the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council serves are just as active in calling for change, and are standing with council leaders, not behind them.

"The stories where they're doing that and they're affecting the lives of people in their community to make it a better place, to make it more inclusive -- those are the stories that I think really touch my heart," Lovelace states.

Council member Rob Fisher is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and says he's been able to used his voice to push for change. For example, at an intersection in his community of Adel, there was a need for pavement to roll his wheelchair up to a traffic light button.

"I called my engineer and I told him to put that cement down," he relates.

The Adel City Council gave the request consideration and replaced the grassy area with pavement.

More than 365,000 Iowans are living with a condition recognized by the ADA. Nationally, one-in-four adults has a disability.

Disclosure: Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities, Health Issues, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA