We asked our readers to send us their personal “victories” that came about as a result of the ADA being implemented and lifestyle choices enhanced. Here is a sampling of the kinds of stories that symbolize 25 years of progress.
As a longtime concert goer, one of the ways that the Americans With Disabilities Act has had a positive impact on my life is it is now convenient to purchase concert tickets and accessible seating, not only for myself, but also for as many companions as I wish. Additionally, the security staffs at the majority of the concert venues I attend are very good about providing accessible parking and accessible bathroom facilities.
My friends and I saw Eric Church last year, and the people at The Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua, N.Y., went out of their way to make sure my experience was a pleasurable one.
Victor, New York
Accessible Public Buildings
I am a 54-year old T3 paraplegic from a car accident in 1984 at age 22. I think the best thing about the ADA at first was the fact that all government buildings had to have access
Bridgewater, New Hampshire
When the ADA Works
I recently purchased tickets for the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. This theatre hosts off-Broadway plays, music concerts, and a variety of cultural venues. I’ve been hesitant about attending anything there for fear it would not be accessible, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the access I had. I purchased balcony seats (the view was great!) even though I was afraid I’d be stuck behind a pole. Not only were the seats great, but there was an usher there to open the doors. The bathrooms were large and easy to use. Handicap parking was filled, but they found us a place to park. We saw the UW Marching Band and it was a great day. This experience has made me comfortable going to different types of places again. I can’t wait to see the new lineup of events.
Thank you to the University of Wisconsin Green Bay Weidner Center for doing what so many businesses don’t. It’s wonderful when the ADA is applied, because it works.
Fon du Lac, Wisconsin
Asking for Changes
I have been a wheelchair user for 15 years now. I’ve had some success in helping my neighborhood become more accessible by getting the Maryland MTA to make the Linthicum light rail station accessible to all of its citizens by having a ramp installed on the west side of the station so it can be safely accessible to wheelchair users and others, like people who push strollers and walkers. Also, I was able to get our county government to increase fines for violating the use of accessible parking spaces from $100 to $500. I have been speaking up for others who do not report ADA violations whenever I come across them.
Linthicum Heights, Maryland
Wheelchair Seating at Fenway Park
Baseball at Fenway Park was one of life’s joys that I thought was gone forever as I lay on the gurney trying to wiggle my toes after unsuccessful surgery on my T11 tumor. Much as I loved the old stadium, I could not imagine navigating the historic ballpark if I could no longer walk.
After 32 very dark nights in Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, regaining my life began in earnest. My incomplete paraplegia responded better than predicted to physical therapy, family support and personal stubbornness. Within a year of the crippling surgery, I had learned to manage airports and flying, disassembly and reassembly of my mobility scooter, and hand-controlled rental cars. Grandchildren in Massachusetts, whale watching in Cape Cod Bay, and Fenway Park awaited.
The Red Sox were in the middle of multiple seasons where every home game was sold out. I called to ask about accessible seats, expecting to discover that I was many months too late. The box office representative said the team often has seats available for handicapped fans even just a few days before a game. I managed to secure a wheelchair spot, a companion seat next to me for son Graham and even a pair of seats nearby for our daughter Emily and her boyfriend Steve.
With great good fortune we parked within a reasonable scooter ride to Fenway Park. My Pride Mobility Go-Go Elite three-wheeler had never before encountered the cobblestones and inclines one must traverse to Fenway Park from Kenmore Square. The nerves in my body that still worked complained mightily about the jarring over the rough walkways. But we made it. We were ready to answer the ultimate question of the day: Is this over 100 years old ballpark really accessible?
I was amazed. Fenway Park seemed utterly unable to be adapted for disabled people as I had thought about it from my perspective of more than 40 years as a nondisabled Red Sox fan. But I was so wrong. I went up a little ramp made of concrete that looked like part of the original 1910 construction. A walkway between the lower and upper grandstand seats had been widened. Perhaps they took out a row of seats to gain the added space. Nondisabled fans easily crisscrossed the walkway behind the wheelchair fans and their companions enjoying the game. Amazing.
As the game progressed, I ventured on my own to the men’s room and concessions. Without family members to run interference, I encountered the greatest accommodation any wheelchair user can ask for in a public place — fantastic people. Fenway ushers directed me to the ramps and away from the steps. Rowdy, fun-loving guys hollered at their friends to get out of my way. I became part of their fun. Goofing around with fellow fans at Fenway Park, it was like old times.
With a little boost from the ADA, the Red Sox organization did some ingenious engineering and adopted the right attitude to make their very old ballpark one of the most accommodating places I have visited anywhere. I cannot wait for my next game at Fenway Park.
Mission Viejo, California
No Need to be Adversarial
On May 5, Accessible Oakland did its first Ramp Crawl in Pittsburgh’s Oakland section.
We didn’t really crawl. We just went bar to bar, eating and drinking. The whole goal was to have businesses see that there are people with disabilities interested in coming into their establishments, spending money, and having a good time. There were about 50 “crawlers.” We split up in small groups, everyone went to a different bar to start out with, and then every 45 minutes or so we changed. So all night long businesses saw people with disabilities coming in groups with friends; each group would leave and another would come. We created awareness, spent money and tried to create a positive experience instead of an adversarial one.
The National Council on Disability was in Pittsburgh to hold its meeting, and some of their members came and joined us. Some city employees also came, like our city’s ADA coordinator, and also representatives from Oakland Business Improvement District, Oakland Transportation and Management Association, University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Oakland for All: Beyond Accessible Partners were sprinkled throughout each group along with volunteers, supporters and friends.
The crawl was split between accessible and inaccessible bars, since we didn’t want to just go to accessible ones. Also, this meant that during half of your crawl you had access to a bathroom. We ended up at the Garage Door, a small neighborhood bar on Atwood Street. It has cheap beer, great cheap food, and 30 of us took over the back room. None of us thought there was an accessible bathroom, but the owner said, “Yeah, there is,” opened up a door, and we said, “this is great!” He just needs to let people know it’s there with some signage.
It’s 25 years after the ADA has passed and Oakland remains mostly inaccessible. I’m not celebrating yet as much as I am continuing to plug away. I don’t think suing everybody in the world is the answer, but getting them to the table to talk about it might be. I am done being angry. I just want change. If we can get three or four businesses a year, I’m cool with that as long as we keep moving in the right direction.