Friday, June 25, 2010

What does the ADA mean to you?

The ADA: 20 Years

- By Keith Hosey -

Hello readers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be twenty years old in July. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about this lately. What does the ADA mean to me? Well, I’m certainly not as severely disabled as many people I know, who have probably been more affected by the ADA and could probably answer this question better. So what I thought, is that I’ll take some video this year to celebrate the ADA anniversary of people I know telling their stories and how the ADA has affected their lives. Please look for that in the coming few months.

The ADA is an essential piece of civil rights protection for people of all disabilities. While many groups have had civil rights for decades, people with disabilities were not guaranteed by law equal rights and protection from discrimination until 1990 (or later depending on the provision). While I’m a romantic at heart, I know the truth is that people with disabilities still fight daily across this great nation for their rights. Not special treatment (as the argument goes sometimes), equal access, equal rights. Rosa Parks fought in the 50s and 60s for the right to sit anywhere on the bus she wanted. ADAPT fought in the 80s for the right of people with disabilities to simply be able to get on, and ride a bus.

It was a wonderful bipartisan piece of legislation that has freed millions of Americans with disabilities and hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians with disabilities to live the American dream. These laws would not have passed without Senators and Congress people who believe that equality and human dignity should triumph above all.

The ADA is no done deal. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was enacted recently because the original ADA had been weakened so much in the area of employment by the courts, the legislature felt they needed to return disability rights to the original intention of the ADA. We still struggle for our rights. Let’s not forget those who have paved the way for us to keep fighting.

But, please, share: What does the ADA mean to you?

Note: I just learned that a Center for Independent Living in California asked Google to change their doodle on July 26th to celebrate the ADA. Google replied that the ADA is "not the type of event promoted on [its] home page."

And yet Google HAS changed its Doodle to reflect the anniversary of a constructed language called "Esperanto," Jacques Cousteau's 100th birthday, and the 30th anniversary of the Pac-Man video game! It is insulting to choose to celebrate a video game in lieu of a piece of civil rights legislation that has won new levels of freedom for the millions of Americans with disabilities. Please join their cause by asking Google to celebrate the ADA.

Photo Credit

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Condition, My Choices

- by Guest Blogger Stephanie Hickey -

My grandmother told me about a story on our local news: a young woman was raped by a census taker in her home. She was twenty-one and had Cerebral Palsy. I have Cerebral Palsy, so my grandmother warned me to be more careful - as if that story was more applicable to me than to other young women because of my condition. I told her I didn’t think I was any more at risk than anyone else because I have Cerebral Palsy and reminded her I have a dog to protect me from possible intruders. Of course that put Grandma on another topic: I should not have a dog because of my disability. A German Shepherd is too big a dog for someone with my disability. I could’ve argued that Sasha - my German Shepherd - has been an asset for my disability. Because of her I am not only walking more, but I am walking better.

Still, I knew there was no point arguing. Grandma made up her mind on my having a German Shepherd before I’d gotten Sasha. A German Shepherd would be wrong for me. Grandma’s reaction to Sasha is just the latest instance of my family members giving me their opinions on how I should handle and live with my disability.

Grandma is just one member of my very large family and they all are caring and supportive. If I hadn’t had such a strong support system, I wouldn’t have made the strides and improvements in my health that I have made over the years. But it has not been without its price. Every family member seems to have something to say related to living with my disability, whether it’s about my exercises, my weight, the way I walk, and now, even my dog. I can always do something more to improve my condition. But it is just that: my condition.

I know that my family only offers their advice because they are concerned. I appreciate the help they’ve given to me throughout my life, but I am capable of doing what I have to do on my own. I accept that I face certain challenges because I have a disability, but I do not think those challenges are extraordinary obstacles. So I want to do as much as I can without interference.

I think that many people with disabilities out there can relate to my situation. Many of us have family members that can’t help but give helpful suggestions about our lives. What they need to understand is that we have to overcome personal obstacles that we face in regards to our disability and any discrimination. We want to have as much independence as possible, and we don’t want to fight our families to achieve that independence. I think families can find a happy medium between being helpful and supportive and giving their loved ones the room to explore their independence.

Everyone - disability or not - has someone in his or her life who thinks they can live your life better than you do - and invariably wastes no opportunity to tell you so. Don’t be afraid to tell them, like I told my grandmother, that you are capable of living your own life.

(Photo Credit:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Should disability be funny?

photo of scooter in accessible parking

- by Keith Hosey -

South Park. The Family Guy. Glee. Fill in your own blank. There’s no shortage lately of comedies that have characters with disabilities. Depending on your age, you may have been told not to stare at people with disabilities. When I was growing up, I was told not to make fun of people different than myself.

Should we laugh at disability? I’d like to make myself clear… I believe teasing, taunting and mean spirited gestures have NO place in our world. But is there such thing as “good clean funny”? Sarah Palin was outraged at Family Guy when the character Chris dated a girl with Down Syndrome, but Andrea Friedman, the actress who voiced the girl has Down Syndrome herself and is an advocate for people with disabilities. Friedman said herself she felt a good sense of humor is healthy and that she positively portrayed a person with a disability.

I have to agree. Her cartoon character was independent and anything but stereotypical, which added to the comedy… and reality. If some groups should be left out of comedy how will they ever experience true equality? I think that, like the boom in stereotypical gay guys in 1990s, it "normalizes" the experience. I do believe that the growth in representation of gays in the 1990s helped that group experienced the growth in acceptance that it did in the ‘90s and ‘00s. It’s not all good and there is always room for more appropriate representations, but comedy and humor are natural extensions of life, they are equalizers. If you exempt a group from healthy ridicule, you exempt them from equality. But that's just my opinion.

What do you think? Should disability be funny?

Photo Credit: