Wednesday morning, I went to Mike’s Farm Market. Nothing unusual about that: when the weather is good, I’ll go there once or twice a week to pick up a few things. It’s a nice place with an extremely helpful and friendly staff, and it is well stocked with things I like. I enjoy going to Mike’s. And it’s handy, about a half mile from home – an easy trip in my wheelchair.
When I got back from Mike’s, I realized just how handy it is.
Somewhere on the Internet that day, I discovered that Sunday will mark the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush put his signature on Public Law 336 of the 101st Congress. As the website of the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov/ada/index.html) puts it, “The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandates the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services.”
Although I was working for the Ashtabula County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities in 1990 and was aware of some of the potential benefits for the people I was working with, I didn’t pay much attention to the law. The truth is, I still don’t pay much attention to the law. At the time the ADA became law, it didn’t affect my life, and I was confident it never would. When, a few years ago, I became a beneficiary of the law, so many things had been made accessible that I was more apt to curse the places that weren’t than give thanks for the places that were.
That’s human nature, I suppose. But the discovery that the ADA is about to turn 20 gave me cause to pause and ponder. For one thing, if getting around a quarter of a century ago had been the challenge for me that it is now, I wouldn’t have gone to Mike’s on Wednesday. Without the ramped sidewalks at the intersections, I could not have made the trip in my wheelchair.
Getting out of the house, seeing people and being useful in some small way does wonders for the soul. The ADA can’t make me as independent as I’d like to be, but it does allow me to be more independent than I otherwise would be. When the need arises and the weather permits, I’m able to go to Mike’s, CVS, the shops in the Edgewood Plaza or cross the viaduct and head toward town. And on a warm summer evening, Nancy and I can walk – OK, technically, she’s the sole walker – to Diary Queen.
A ramped sidewalk is such a little thing, something you hardly notice until you need it. When you do, it’s the most welcome sight in the world.