[nfbmi-talk] FW: ada at 25 progress and peril

Terry D. Eagle terrydeagle at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 27 13:28:57 UTC 2015


"We realize that laws, by themselves, cannot change long-held attitudes.
Even with the passage of the ADA-a significant step toward equal rights
under the

law for people with disabilities-our capacity to work, to raise families,
and to be a part of community life is still unrecognized in many contexts."
-- Mark A. Riccobono

 

ADA at 25: Progress and peril. By Mark A. Riccobono 

- 07/24/15 01:30 PM EDT . July 26 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
signing of the Americans with

Disabilities Act (ADA). As President of the National Federation of the
Blind, one of the oldest and largest organizations of disabled Americans, I
recognize

that the ADA was made possible through our self-determined action as people
with disabilities, and there are many achievements we should celebrate after

twenty-five years of progress. But while I continue to be hopeful about our
future, I also view this anniversary as a time to be significantly concerned

about new barriers that threaten our full participation in society. Most
significantly, we are largely excluded from the technologies that make
education,

work, and life easier for most other Americans. Blind people can access
computer software, websites, and mobile applications using technologies such
as

text-to-speech engines and electronic Braille displays. But these tools only
work well when electronic information and technology are designed to be
compatible

with them. Every day, most blind people, and many others with disabilities,
encounter barriers to performing otherwise routine tasks, such as paying
bills

or booking a flight. At best, these barriers are merely frustrating-at
worst, they can lead to loss of productivity, educational opportunity, or
employment.

The need for accessible technology in the classroom is particularly acute.
If we are shut out of education, what future do we have? The ADA was written

before the Internet and other electronic and information technologies came
into everyday use. Unfortunately, many assert that the law therefore cannot

apply to these technologies. A few courts have recognized that there is no
fundamental difference between selling merchandise or providing services
over

the internet and providing those same goods or services at a
brick-and-mortar location. We have been told that the United States
Department of Justice

(DOJ) shares this common-sense view, and its recent settlements with
providers of online services, including the online grocery delivery service
Peapod

and the massive open online course platform EdX, indicate this to be the
case. Furthermore, DOJ signaled its intent in 2010 to issue regulations
applying

the ADA to the internet. But five years later, the regulations, although
they have apparently been drafted, have not been issued. So we must still
fight

for access website by website, app by app, institution by institution.
Sometimes, the entities involved tell us that they have no legal or moral
obligations

to us. To such entities, we are merely a tiny market segment, and
accommodating us isn't worth their effort. Others tell us that they
understand that accessibility

is "the right thing to do," but that we will simply have to wait, like
well-behaved children, until they get around to it. I believe that this
situation

is a bigger threat to the true independence and first-class citizenship of
Americans with disabilities than many of the barriers we faced before the
ADA.

We realize that laws, by themselves, cannot change long-held attitudes. Even
with the passage of the ADA-a significant step toward equal rights under the

law for people with disabilities-our capacity to work, to raise families,
and to be a part of community life is still unrecognized in many contexts.
We

are the only class of people who can legally be paid less than the federal
minimum wage. This occurs primarily within institutions stating they have
our

best interest in mind, but which lack the expertise or desire to create real
training and employment opportunities. Blind parents like my wife and I live

in fear that a well-meaning case worker will snatch our children away in the
wake of some routine childhood mishap, simply because we are blind.
America's

blind children-like our daughters Oriana and Elizabeth-continue to face low
expectations in school systems that do not value the tools and techniques
that

the blind use to be successful-such as Braille. The National Federation of
the Blind is dedicated to inspiring people with disabilities to believe in
themselves

and create the systemic change that will free them from these environments
of low expectations, and to fighting discrimination wherever we uncover it.

Therefore, as the ADA's silver anniversary approaches, I urge all Americans
with disabilities, and those who love us and support our aspirations, to
commit

ourselves to renewed collective action to tackle the barriers that still
prevent all too many of us from living the lives we want. Together, with
love,

hope, and determination, we can turn the dream of a society that values and
includes all of us into reality. Riccobono is president of the National
Federation

of the Blind.

Source: The Hill

 



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