The ADA is 30 Years Old. What Does it Mean to Young People with Disabilities?

According to a story from Youth Today, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first passed 30 years ago, in 1990. This historic law helps protect people that live with disabilities from discrimination, giving them critical opportunities to live full and successful lives. In this story, young people living with disabilities take time to reflect on how the ADA has impacted their lives and what they hope it means for their futures. 

30 year old Ashlee McDougall of Tucson, AZ has cystic fibrosis, a rare disorder that primarily impacts the lungs. She currently teaches online yoga and thinks that younger people with disabilities like herself have been cut out of the discourse surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she doesn’t deny that the laws established by the ADA have made a major difference in her life. She says it has helped her feel more safe and secure in her employment. 

“I hope that the ADA creates stricter policies for employers and businesses, so the disabled community sees more opportunities in the next 30 years too!” – Ashlee

Meredith Aleigha Wells is 25 years old and works as a traveling artist; unfortunately, the pandemic has left her quarantined in Cleveland, OH. She lives with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). Normally, her art consists of acting, dancing, and singing.

The experience of COVID-19 and the quarantine has had an affect on her as well, and she says that it has been a little frustrating to see how many activities and other things go virtual after years of having them be denied to the disabled community, who have needed virtual access far before the pandemic began. However, Wells acknowledges that benefits of the ADA and expresses admiration for the activists that helped make it a reality:

“From the Section 504 sit-in to the Capitol Crawl, I am forever indebted to all the disabled activists and allies that paved the way for the life I am able to live today.” – Meredith

31 year old Chelsea Anne Lawrence of Minneapolis, MN lives with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare connective tissue disorder. She also has several other rare conditions that cause disability, such as functional neurological disorder, mast cell activation syndrome, degenerative disc disease, and craniocervical disability. The pandemic has cut off her access to a lot of critical treatments, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and her personal care assistant.

“…We have changed some things, but it’s a big world and there [is] a lot of change that needs to happen.” – Chelsea

Chelsea is right. There is still a lot of work to be done in obtaining equality for the disadvantaged and the disabled in our country, but remembering important moments like the ADA can help remind us that change is possible and that we can keep working towards a more just society.


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