Posts Tagged ‘American with Disabilities Act’

Happy 25th Anniversary ADA!

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

wheelchair symbolThere is so much that we have in our country that enables individuals with disabilities to access buildings, streets and facilities safely and without difficulty. A sidewalk ramp, an elevator, handicapped parking spots, wider doors to allow wheelchairs to pass through, sign language interpreters, tweeting sounds at street crosswalks, and braille on elevators are just a few of the enhancements that people with disabilities utilize today.

But it was not always this way.

I remember a time when my classmate who was in a wheelchair, could not enter a bathroom stall in a public restroom, because the door was not wide enough for her wheelchair to pass through. I’m sure other people remember times when individuals with disabilities could not get on a bus, get down a curb to cross a street, or find an elevator instead of stairs to get to the second floor of a building. Simply put, daily life was so much harder and often prohibited a person from going places, being independent or living life similar to a person without disabilities.

But all of this changed on July 26, 1990, when the American with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush.

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The law removes barriers and establishes that reasonable accommodations be made available to people with disabilities.

What is a disability under the ADA?

The ADA defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.” In addition, the disability does not have to be severe or permanent, either. For example, a pregnant woman who is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy must be treated the same way as another temporarily disabled employee.

How does the ADA help people with disabilities?

The ADA is not only there for physical enhancements in our environment; it seeks to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability, much the same way the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on sex, race or religion.

The ADA website describes in detail the ways in which this law helps individuals with disabilities access jobs, schools, public places (such as day care centers, recreation facilities, movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, pools and many other places), and services such as telephones, cell phones, pagers, call-waiting, and operator services.

You can read more about how this law is far reaching and important in the lives of individuals with disabilities at or

So, happy anniversary ADA. And thank you for helping to become an equalizer when it comes to access and opportunity for so many Americans.


Accommodations help vacationers with special needs

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

mom and daughter in poolGetting a change of scene, even for a day, is GOOD for you and your child with special needs. And now, it is getting easier to do.

I have blogged about the importance of taking time for yourself, and have posted tips on traveling with a child with special needs. But, often parents of kids with special needs don’t go on vacation as a family because they feel that their child’s special needs may not be met at hotels, restaurants or in theme parks. But, the chronic stress associated with your daily life can catch up with you; it is not good physically, emotionally or mentally for you to never re-new your energy. Here is some good news if you are thinking of spending a day at a theme park or going away for the Labor Day weekend.

My two grown kids and I just got back from a vacation where we visited several theme parks. We had a fabulous time going on rides, swimming at the hotel pool, and just spending time together. The breaks from our usual routines were much needed, and we all returned home with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

At the various theme parks we visited, I was heartened to see accommodations for individuals with special needs. “Family Restrooms” are common, where you can take your child into a restroom in privacy, comfort and safety. Ramps or special entrances enable buildings with attractions to be wheelchair-accessible. Amphitheaters are outfitted with numerous seating sections for groups that have a family member in a wheelchair. Sign language interpreters accompany certain shows, and braille can be found on park maps. Many theme parks have staff especially devoted to making sure that guests with disabilities or special needs are accommodated and welcomed. Often sports stadiums or ball parks have days especially dedicated to individuals with disabilities.

At many of the restaurants we went to, gluten free menus were prominently displayed. At our hotel, we observed accommodations for guests with disabilities:  the outdoor hot tub had a chair lift to assist individuals who cannot go down steps, and special room accommodations were available for hearing impaired guests.

Often you can find theaters that offer “sensory friendly” movies or performances, where the lights are dimmed but are not fully off, the sound or music is lowered, and families can bring their own snacks. Children are not discouraged from getting out of their seats to dance or wiggle around on the floor.

Although the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been the driving force behind many of the physical changes in public places, organizations or businesses often go above and beyond the requirements of the ADA to make sure their guests are able to take full advantage of their offerings. The inclusive, welcoming attitude of these organizations is apparent and makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to spend a fun day with your entire family.

Bottom line

If you are heading out of town for the weekend, thinking of going to a theme park or sports stadium for the day, or simply wish to go to a restaurant to eat, check out the website of the venue or call them to see the kind of accommodations they offer.  The information is usually listed under Guest Services, Accessibility Guide, Access Guide, Disability Services, or a similar title. With so many recent positive changes, there are fewer reasons to stay home and not take full advantage of a wonderful family outing.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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