Twenty years has passed since the most important disability bill in history became law. On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against disabled people. Buildings, parks, sports facilities, and work places, among other places, must be accessible to all people. Work places cannot say “no” to somebody based on his or her disability.
Signs of ADA success: In the past year, Minneapolis has gotten two new ADA approved sports facilities–Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium. When I went to a Twins game at the Metrodome, it wasn’t a fun experience. People would obstruct my view by walking in front of me and I could bring one companion with me. However, at Target Field, there are 794 ADA approved seats and I can take more than one companion to the game. Parks have installed concrete walkways for wheelchair users, buildings have installed elevators and handicap door buttons, and city officials have installed curb cuts.
But, the ADA is yet to reach its full potential.
Some buildings have no way in for people in wheelchairs. Certain buildings don’t have ramps or handicap buttons to let people with disabilities in. I think it’s a real big problem in small cities, like Northfield. But, there are some buildings in Minneapolis, too, that have no way in if you are disabled, like Fat Lorenzos in South Minneapolis. Also, there aren’t sidewalks or curb cuts in some towns and that can be a real pain for someone in a wheelchair.
But, here is one of the biggest problems: some schools don’t have a fire escape for students in wheelchairs if they are on the upper floors. During a fire or a fire drill, schools are required to shut off the elevators. Therefore, students in wheelchairs have to go to a fire safe room, which aren’t necessarily safe. Fire could get under the door and the windows are too high to lift a student out the window. For example, Minneapolis South High School has a fire escape ramp to the 2nd floor, but not the 3rd floor. If a student in a wheelchair is on the third floor during a real fire, this could be a dangerous or even a tragic situation. All building should have at least one way for a person with physical disabilities to get out on each floor, not including an elevator.
On Monday, July 26, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADA. There are a couple of ways to participate. On July 26, there is an ADA 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, near DeLaSalle High School from 10am to 2pm. It will feature comedian Josh Blue and ADA Expert Peter Berg. Click here for a flier of this event. Also, MPR is doing a story on this event and they are asking people to fill out a form about their experiences with the ADA. Click here to share your story.
Enjoy and celebrate this grand occasion! Please share your stories about the ADA with us on “Two Men On.”
Written by: Michael L. Sack