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ADA Reflections From A Wheelchair User

Sam Graves driving wheelchair on to city bus wheelchair ramp

I was born in 1993 and diagnosed with cerebral palsy a few months later. As an American with a disability, I have had the privilege of living my entire life under the rights given to me by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which turns 30 this Sunday. Due to my cerebral palsy, I have used an electric wheelchair for almost all of my life. As a person with a disability, (who uses a wheelchair), I have greatly benefited from the ADA in several aspects of life, including education, technology, and transportation.

Education

Through high school, my educational rights as a student with a disability were covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, when I attended college (and IDEA no longer applied to me), the ADA made life much easier.

For instance, I was able to have my college textbooks scanned and put on my laptop computer because it is much easier for me to read books electronically then to handle a physical book. I was also allowed extra time for exams, since I had to dictate my answers to someone who would write them down, rather than writing the answers myself.

Prior to the ADA and other disability laws relating to education, I most likely would not have received these and other accommodations necessary for me to succeed in school. I am extremely grateful for these services provided to me by the ADA and related laws, and my education would be much different without these pieces of legislation.

Technology

The ADA has contributed to the awareness and creation of many assistive technology devices. Assistive technology has been a huge part of my life, and I would be dramatically less independent without it. For example, assistive technology helped me significantly throughout my education, from having my textbooks scanned to being able to record lectures on my iPad.

My love for assistive technology was a big factor in my decision to work at Accessible360. A360 has taught me about other pieces of assistive technology, such as screen readers which read text aloud and are commonly used by people who are blind or have low vision. Working at A360 has made me further realize that assistive technology can help level the playing field for people with all types of disabilities, and that assistive technology can be useful to anyone, not only those with disabilities.

Transportation

The ADA has also played a major role in allowing me to get to places. The best example of this may be city bus ramps. The ADA requires that all city buses be wheelchair accessible.

I regularly use the city bus to go to and from the A360 office (in non-COVID times). I enter the bus via a wheelchair ramp (see photo above). Without the ADA, the city buses I use may not have these ramps, and I would have to find another way to get to work.

Conclusion

I, along with people across the country with disabilities, have benefited enormously from the ADA and the rights the law provides. As the 30th anniversary of the ADA approaches, I am reminded of how grateful I am for the people who fought for it to be enacted.

Sam Graves is the Social Media Associate at Accessible360. After graduating from Augsburg College (now Augsburg University) in April 2016 and doing various social media/marketing internships, Sam joined the Accessible360 team in May 2017. Some of his hobbies are watching and playing sports, listening to music and audiobooks (he is a big fan of the Harry Potter books!), and spending time with friends.

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