As a child, I looked ahead to the year 2020 and thought it was so far away. I envisioned a futuristic world with advances in technology, medicine, cars and robots. The future is now, and we do in fact have those incredible advances — robot vacuums, self-driving vehicles, medical breakthroughs, and free Wi-Fi everywhere! Technology has become such an extension of us.
That same kid never saw disability as part of my future. It was not even on my radar. I never imagined that when 2020 arrived I would be thinking about the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act or what’s new in spinal cord injury research.
Disability became part of my identity in 1995. I was thankful there was a law that protected my rights as a person with a disability, and I was hopeful because I was told a cure was only five years away. In the past 25 years, I have seen positive changes such as more access to buildings or transportation, more representation in media, and some promising therapies and research that could one day improve function and quality of life for people with SCI. However, on a global scale I witness the societal, physical and institutional barriers to our community that still remain.
The wheels need to turn faster and leave this stagnation in the dust. Today I am hopeful because a new year always feels like a fresh start with renewed energy. Our community has strong disability advocates and activists, it is an election year, and technology is opening up new pathways to accessibility in homes, communities and social interactions!
I am an adult now, and looking forward, I can see 2020 as a year of change and a year to celebrate the contributions people with disabilities have made (and will make) in our communities.