As someone who works with people living with disabilities, and also lives with a disability, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) means to the people I work with, and to me personally.
At the time the ADA was voted into law, I was a young woman who owned a struggling business and
was living with a disability that no one could see, and few understood. Owning my own business seemed to be the best way to navigate the messy and difficult societal views I had encountered while living with a lifelong mental illness, and still have the freedom and flexibility to receive the treatment and support I needed. Being honest about my illness and medical needs in conventional workplaces had been met with fear, marginalization and a great deal of misunderstanding.
I recall thinking at the time that society either viewed people as totally capable, or utterly incapable. There were days when my illness was active, and days when it was not. It seemed unfair to me that anyone should have to sit on the sidelines of employment and professional life, simply because of a disability that did not render them ineffective; it just meant that they completed their work in a different way.
The passing of the ADA gave me, and many others, the legal assurance, that we would not lose our profession based upon our disability. It also gave me the freedom and confidence to pursue other professions outside of business ownership. These have included working in fields I was able to make meaningful contributions to, such as public service.
In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, WeCo’s Accessibility Blog will be featuring stories about the specific ways the ADA has improved the lives of people living with disabilities, who work with and for our company.