Celebrating the ADA’s 30th Anniversary

Credit: ADA National Network (adata.org) 1-800-949-4232

Thirty years ago the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) became law in our country and a model for civil rights around the world. The ADA bans discrimination on the basis of disability in the areas of employment, public accommodation, public services, transportation and telecommunications. President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990.

The ADA affects many of us without us realizing it! For example, people with strollers, shopping carts, or those with arthritis all benefit from curb cuts, elevators, and automatic doors. Closed captioning on television can help people who have trouble with auditory processing or help people attempting to listen in a loud room. Of course, the changes put into effect by the ADA make everyday things possible for people with disabilities, not just easier for the rest of us.

Here are some items available at Westlake Porter Public Library that celebrate the ADA.

Books Available at Your Library

All the Way to the Top : How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel is a new picture book geared for ages 4-8 that introduces young readers to the activist movements that led to the passage of the ADA, including the Capitol Crawl, which has been described as the spark that led to the passage of the ADA. The protagonist is 8 year old Jennifer Keelan who left her wheelchair and climbed the Capitol steps with hundreds of others in order to draw attention to civil rights for Americans with disabilities.

Enabling Acts: The Hidden Story of how the Americans with Disabilities Act Gave the Largest US Minority Its Rights by Lennard J. Davis, a disability rights scholar puts together a varied cast of unforgettable characters from pristine research and hours of interviews in order to write about one of the largest equal rights campaigns in the history of the United States, the passage of the ADA. Some reviewers call this book riveting and some say it is tedious. It is worthwhile to read a few chapters and wonder to yourself why the Gallaudet University strike, the Greyhound Bus protests, or the Capitol crawl are not as widely taught or referenced as Selma or Stonewall. This book will introduce you to those and other important moments in the ADA’s history.

Activist Judith Heumann is one of the colorful, influential characters in Enabling Acts. Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist is her story, in her words. In this new memoir, she recalls the activism that helped uphold section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and which helped to pass the ADA. She writes about what being the disabled daughter of Holocaust survivors means to her and mulls on the future of the ADA in light of current political climates. Nothing about us without us is a slogan with its roots in disability rights campaigns. Judith Heumann is one of many important activists who lives that slogan.

Disability rights activist Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project and host of the podcast of the same name, compiles first-person accounts of essays written by persons with disabilities in Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the 21st Century. Written by new and known voices, Disability Visibility is divided into 4 sections: Being, Becoming, Doing, and Connecting. Wong does not like the term “disability” to be some kind of homogeneous or all-encompassing idea. These essays prove that no one person’s experience with disability is the same and neither is their response to it. There are political statements, personal histories, poetry, dictated accounts, and a eulogy represented in this always diverse, ever honest, and sometimes difficult collection.

About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times is a collection of 60 selections from the New York Times’ weekly “Disability” series, in which people write about their life as a person with living with a disability. Writers include well-known disability rights activists and writers you will want to know more about. This is a powerful and unforgettable collection readers will savor. It challenges the notion that “disabled” is a uniform label and asks readers to reconsider pity and redraw their boundaries when considering disabilities.

Films Available to Stream

Defiant Lives – The Rise Of The Disability Rights Movement, a film by Sarah Barton, documents the movement for civil rights for those with disabilities in the USA, the UK, and Australia. This 90 minute documentary uses rarely seen, archival footage to trace the history of the movement. This powerful documentary redefines what ability means and demonstrates that nothing holds back activists fighting the good fight. Available to stream on Kanopy.

RAMPED UP – The Pitfalls of the Americans with Disabilities Act tells the true story of two people with disabilities, one who has brought dozens of lawsuits against businesses and other entities that do not comply with the ADA. The other individual runs a business that has been sued under the ADA. They share their points and counter points about the enforcement of the ADA, the accessibility of our country since ADA, and challenges each face as business owners and as citizens with disabilities. Available to stream on Kanopy.

Credit: ADA National Network (adata.org) 1-800-949-4232

Natalie Bota

Miss Natalie is the Special Needs Librarian at Westlake Porter Public Library. She enjoys working with patrons of all ages and can usually be found in the Youth Services Department or the Reading Garden. She enjoys reading picture books and poetry, baseball, writing, cooking, and travel. She loves spending time with her pets, family, and friends.