I was eight years old when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. It has been the most significant piece of legislation in my life thus far. From parking to ramps in public places, every aspect of my life has been impacted by the ADA.
As a mom, it has affected my life in a different way, though. I never thought that I would have to use it as a shield, but I guess that’s what it is. I will admit that I have to learn how to use it more efficiently.
Edward started Kindergarten last year. I tried online public school because of the expectation of flexibility it offered. Unfortunately, it soon became overwhelming for us both. I honestly did not want to deal with the ordeal of requesting “reasonable accommodations” so that I could be an involved parent during the school year, as bad as that seems, but I finally had to swallow my pride and surrender. I enrolled him into a traditional public school.
In all honesty, I had to get frustrated and slightly angry in order to pull the ADA card out of my pocket. Many people are misinformed or don’t know enough about the ADA. It isn’t a magical document that changes people’s attitudes or perceptions just by knowing it exists. And just because you fit into a certain group does not guarantee you innate knowledge of federal laws that can protect your rights. You have to do the research.
Most experiences that I have had in relation to the ADA have been due to the infringement of my rights be it indirectly or otherwise. I have had to explain my needs to transportation agencies, doctors, schools, and even government officials.
I know that I will have to keep advocating for myself and my son, who is not disabled, by the way. The fact is, most sort of overlook the ADA, as it doesn’t usually impact us. When it does, the person is usually facing litigation of some sort. Again, we the disabled people, just want to enjoy the same basic rights which are guaranteed to any other American, no more, no less. That is the essence of the Act itself: to be able to thrive without extra limitations; to reach our full potential without anyone having the right to say, “You are incapable.”
Twenty six years from now I want my son to be able to say “My mother fought for us. She fought for herself. She taught me to stand up for myself. She showed me how to be capable.”