March Disability Awareness Month

The month of March is Disability Awareness Month and there has been some confusion and controversy surrounding the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). This article will have to clarify the main issues.

The ADA was passed in 1990 by then President George H. W. Bush and signed by him on July 26th. It was a mandate meaning that everyone had to comply with the law without exception, other than those in the act itself.

The original ADA was fairly small but exploded into hundreds of pages once groups of experts were brought in to write the guidelines for the 3 major sections: Title I, addressing employment; Title II that deals with State and Local governments and Title III, that defines what businesses are expected to do to accommodate People with Disabilities (PWD).

ADA Compliance

The ADA is Administered by The US Department of Justice and there has been confusion over compliance and many business have chosen to ignore the mandate altogether. This has proven to be a costly mistake in numerous cases as business are fined for not complying then they still have to bear the cost of compliance.

Some businesses, especially small businesses, feel that the cost of ADA compliance is too high and will even force them to close in some cases. There are some very low cost, even free options and some “outs” or loop holes for small businesses:

Low-cost, simple steps to take consist of ramping one step; put in a bathroom grab bar; making  paper towel dispensers lower; repositioning furniture; affixing offset hinges to make doorway wider; or make an accessible parking space by painting new lines.

All new or renovated buildings must comply with the ADA guidelines and local building codes.

Today 1 in 5 Americans have a disability that is approximately 54 million people.

Here are some tips that will make a BIG difference when interacting with someone with a disability:

  • If you are talking to someone in a wheelchair, get down to their level by stooping or pulling up a chair.
  • Always ask if help is needed, don’t assume.
  • Talk to us, not around or over us.
  • It is rude to ask what happened or what’s wrong. Let them bring it up.
  • Don’t be condescending. Understand that disabled people do things just slightly different.
  • Don’t sit in their wheelchair. It’s part of their personal space!
  • Treat them just like everyone else.

These tips should give you a better understanding of the disabled world. Keep them in mind, God forbid, you might be next!

 

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