PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - On July 26, it will be 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is a law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
What You Need To Know
- Americans with Disabilities Act turns 30 years old Sunday
- It has helped people such as Kim Dittman
- BELOW: Important moments in ADA history, and its future in Florida
Spectrum Bay News 9 sat down with Kim Dittman, the Independent Living Facilitator at the Disability Achievement Center for Independent Living, to hear about her experience living with a disability and what the ADA means to her.
“It has made a huge impact and 30 years later I’m glad we’re recognizing it, not only for individuals with disabilities but employers (and) our community. I think it’s critical that we never lose sight of accessing and we never lose sight of our individual strengths,” said Dittman.
When Dittman was 39 years old, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. She spent months in the ICU, fighting for her life.
“It rocked my world. I was definitely changed by a result of my disability. I didn’t know it was coming and had no reason to understand why it came,” said Dittman.
She says it rendered her totally paralyzed. She slowly gained her sight back, and the ability to talk and breathe on her own. She uses a wheelchair to get around and credits the ADA for the life she’s able to live.
“It allowed for not only employment accessibility and accommodations, but it also allowed me to have access into the community,” said Dittman.
“It allows for us to have a presence in our community, to have a voice, to be a part of our community, to be strong with our community, to be one with our community,” said Dittman.
Dittman says it’s important that we continue to raise awareness about the ADA. She says while across the country accessibility has improved over the years, in some places it's still an issue. Some smaller businesses can’t afford to install things like ramps.
The Disability Achievement Center for Independent Living helps broaden access for people in the community. To learn more about its mission, click here.
Important Moment in ADA's History; Its Future in Florida
The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund wrote a history of the ADA shortly after its passage.
In the article, they said “the ADA owes its birthright not to any one person, or any few, but to the many thousands.”
One singular moment, was the Section 504 protests in the 1970s.
It’s that part of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that was made into federal law, which became the first regulation protecting people with disabilities.
But it was only implemented four years after its creation in 1977, had it not been for the pressure of nationwide sit-ins.
The San Francisco protest lasting almost a month is still the longest continuous occupation of a federal building to date.
What's Florida's outlook today in making laws to benefit the community?
State Senator Lauren Book, who chairs the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, said it's a work in progress.
"This is a milestone that is so huge, no one is talking about what a big time this is for this community and how we can continue to break barriers down," Sen. Book said.
Some of the legislative work currently in Florida involves a 2017 law that allows the use of service animals in courtrooms for children with disabilities.
There are two bills that are waiting debate.
There is a proposed prohibition of secluding and restraining students with disabilities that's paired with proposed education requirements for teachers on how to teach students with disabilities.
The other is a transportation expansion for students with disabilities across county lines.
Senator Book said the pandemic has made an uphill battle more challenging for people with disabilities.
But she added it's also opened new opportunities to expand virtual and distance communications that are also helpful.