The ADA was passed in 1990 and is a bedrock civil rights law that protects and ensures the civil rights of people with disabilities.
Since that time, we have made incredible strides to improve the lives of the 1 in 5 people with learning disabilities and attention issues. But there is still more work to be done, and more leadership needed from Congress. In 2015, NCLD worked with champions in Congress to introduce the Respond, Innovate, Succeed & Empower (RISE) Act to ensure that students with disabilities could receive accommodations in college without the need for costly and duplicative assessments to prove they have a disability.
Today, we imagine what the future of the ADA and other disability rights laws could be. We hear from three Members of Congress who are co-sponsors of the RISE Act as they reflect on the past success of the ADA and help us imagine a future in which the RISE Act improves the conditions for people with learning disabilities.
NCLD’s Parent Advisory Council Field Organizer, Susan Reynolds, shares her personal story advocating for ADA accommodations for her child, as a disabled parent, who also needs accommodations. Please watch below.
Below is a transcript of the video that has been lightly edited for clarity:
Earlier this week, I recorded a video talking about the ADA and how it changed my life as a disabled person. I’m a first-generation beneficiary of the ADA.
However, there are accommodations, accessibilities that are provided for me because of the ADA, and I’m sad to admit this-I forget about them.
I receive accommodations at my son’s school when I advocate for him. Every meeting, all written correspondence, everything must be accessible for me because of my disabilities.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Because of my disabilities, I am not only protected by IDEA and my parental rights, I am protected by the ADA as well.
My accommodations tend to be:
Record meetings. Recording meetings helps me focus on what is being discussed. If I must take notes, listen to what is being said, and try to ask questions, something is always missed. I am ADHD, so I need to limit my distractions, and recording helps me with that.
All written materials or correspondence need to be printed, in a larger font, and I ask for these written materials 5 business days before a meeting. I have a learning disability that impacts my reading and my reading comprehension. I need time to read and understand so I can be a better-informed advocate for my child.
I ask for seating away from a door or window, so I won’t be distracted.
I bring someone with me, who does not have my disabilities to basically be another set of eyes and ears.
There are more accommodations that I could ask for, but so far these have helped me. I also let my son’s school know in advance that I will need ADA accommodations. I want us to be collaborative when talking about the best way to educate my child. Advance notice of ADA accommodations is one way I can be more collaborative.
The ADA protects all parents with disabilities. Make sure you talk with someone in the school first so they know what accommodations you might need.
If I get any push back from someone in my son’s school, which I have, I remind everyone involved that the ADA protects me from discrimination and allows for my accommodations.
I ask, “How can I be the best advocate for my son, when the information is not accessible?”
So far, I haven’t had to ask for policies, but I have noticed the changes in attitudes towards me when I say that I am disabled and require ADA accommodations when advocating for my child.
That’s the work that still needs to be done. The changing of people’s perceptions and attitudes. The misperceptions of people with disabilities is disheartening. And while I find myself frustrated and angry at times, I know that I am right when asking for ADA accommodations.
If you are a parent with a disability, advocating for your child; talk with the school to let them know that you will require accommodations. The ADA protects you and your child.
Susan Reynolds, a member of NCLD’s Parent Advisory Council, joined us in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by sharing her personal experiences. Please enjoy by watching the video below.
If you would prefer to read Susan’s remarks:
“My name is Susan Reynolds and I am disabled. I was twelve years old when I received my first diagnoses of Dyslexia and ADHD. As a child I understood that I learned differently, but I received little to no accommodations in school. I was a frustrated child who longed for something better.
Before the passage of ADA, the world was in such an interesting place. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. Less than a year later in 1990, Germany was in the process of reunifying as a country. In the same year, the United States had passed the greatest piece of Civil Rights legislation since the 1964 Civil Rights bill, the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The US became a beacon of hope for people with disabilities all over the world.
I was sixteen when the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, and I remember the day vividly.
A few months earlier, before my 16th birthday, I was diagnosed with my second learning disability. I was a military kid, we were stationed in Germany, and pediatric neurologist diagnosed me with a Visual Motor Processing Disorder.
I was a teenager being diagnosed with a new disability. I was old enough to know that I learned differently. I was old enough to know that something was not working. I was old enough to know.
It was July 1990 and I watched President George H. W. Bush speak about ADA. I sat, stunned into silence.
“This act is powerful in its simplicity. It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so long and so hard: independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream.”
Unexpectedly, the shame I felt, being a teenager on Ritalin, being a different learner, not being able to sit still like everyone else in school wasn’t so shameful.
ADA changed my life in a matter of minutes. The long-term effects? I didn’t know about those, yet.
Buildings were now mandated to have ramps, elevators, and accessible bathrooms. Public transportation became accessible. My friends who required wheelchairs could get into a building and use the bathroom like everyone else.
But ADA was more than ramps and elevators.
Being denied an IEP and 504 plan throughout elementary school and high school created a fear in me. I was worried about taking college entrance exams without accommodations. I was worried about college. ADA would make sure that my college experience would be different; would be accessible.
Even more impressive was how college entrance exams were now required to provide accommodations for students with disabilities. I was one of the first students in my high school to receive testing accommodations for the SAT.
What does ADA mean to me?
ADA has been my comfort and reliable friend for 30 years. I received accommodations in college, the workplace, and when I advocate for my son’s IEP in his school. ADA has always been there for me and has never let me down.
We still have work to do regarding ADA. Unfortunately, there are still buildings, sidewalks and more that are not accessible. We still have work to do because the work for ADA is never done.
It’s because of advocates, ADA will always be here for people with invisible and visible disabilities. ADA will always ensure that people with disabilities, all people with all disabilities are treated equal under the law.
I would like to thank retired U.S. senators Tom Harkin and Bob Dole for their vision, their drive, and their support of ADA. I would like Judith Heumann, Ed Roberts, Brad Lomax, and so many others for their fierce advocacy of ADA. I would like to thank Alice Wong, Emily Ladau, and LeDerick Horne fiercely protecting ADA. I am honored to join you in this work.
Happy Anniversary Americans with Disabilities Act! You look good for 30!”
All the week of July 27-31, NCLD celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Throughout the week we hope our friends and advocates will see that in order to pass and preserve laws like the ADA, which protect and strengthen the civil rights of people with disabilities, we must have strong leadership from disability champions at all levels of government. Voting is our way to make our voices heard and elect leaders who represent us.
In 2020, we are challenging our friends and advocate community to make sure their voices are heard by registering to vote and then joining NCLD’s voting “squad”. Together, we can elect disability champions all across the country. You have the power, you have the voice. The time is ours!
Stay up to date with NCLD’s voting initiative, Our Time, Our Vote, and our partner organization, When We All Vote, to ensure you and your squad have the information you need to vote with confidence in November and in future elections.
Register for the voting squad training on July 30th and make sure your squad is ready to elect the next crop of disability champions all across the country!
To 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, Kimberly Eckert, the ADA isn’t just a law—it’s a teaching experience. In this interview, Ms. Eckert is joined by two of her students, Gage Simoneaux and Emma Grace Roisheaux as they describe a lesson on the ADA Ms. Eckert taught at her school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Before becoming the 2012 Alabama State Teacher of the Year and National Teacher of the Year, Dr. Gay Barnes began her career in teaching around the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Beyond her role as a teacher, Dr. Barnes is also a parent and grandparent of children with disabilities.
In this video, Dr. Barnes reflects on what has changed in the field of education since the passage of the ADA and her hopes for the ADA in the future.
To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), NCLD wanted to speak with key leaders involved in the passage of the law back in 1990. President and CEO Lindsay Jones, and Quinn Bradlee, Youth Engagement Associate, sat down with Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD 5th District) to learn more about the history of how the ADA came into being.
Watch the conversation below.
Congressman Hoyer was a sponsor of the ADA in the U.S. House of Representatives and also helped lead the passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which clarified the original intent of the law and officially included Learning Disabilities in the bill’s language. Watch the video to learn more about how Congress helped ensure the rights of people with disabilities.
To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), NCLD wanted to speak with key leaders involved in the passage of the law back in 1990. Parent Organizer Susan Reynolds and NCLD Young Adult Leadership Council member Erin Mayo joined former Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to learn more about the history of how the ADA came into being and the people who inspired him to push for this critical piece of legislation.
Senator Harkin was a key author and lead sponsor of the ADA in the U.S. Senate and also helped lead the passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which clarified the original intent of the law and officially included Learning Disabilities in the bill’s language. Senator Harkin is a lifelong disability advocate.
Watch the conversation below to learn more about how Congress helped ensure the rights of people with disabilities.