On this date in 1990, the Americans with Disability Act was signed into federal law. I actually remember watching the evening news and seeing the video clip of the law being signed. I remember thinking that this was a good thing for handicapped people, but I certainly never felt vested in the legislation. After all, I wasn't disabled and it really didn't impact me.
Oh, the naivete of youth! Little did I know
that I would be inducted into the disabled community and would come to
rely upon the parameters of this law. The curb cuts, the ramps, even the
handicapped parking spaces that I utilize are all the results of this
My disability didn't occur until this law was
tested, enacted and enforced. Fortunately I have never had to struggle
with access to public buildings. I came to take the accessibility
options for granted and never really thought about how lucky I was to
live in a society where they were required. My recent trip to the
Bahamas was certainly enlightening!
One of the first things that
caught my attention was the lack of accessibility offered at our resort.
The sprawling resort had more staircases than I could count but no
ramps. Luckily, I am able to maneuver the steps. If I had been confined
to a wheelchair or had increased mobility issues, my access to the
resort would have been substantially limited.
After noticing the
lack of ramps, Scott and I began to note other differences in
accessibility. The buffet was presented at chest level which meant that
somebody in a wheelchair would not have been able to fill a plate. Of
course, the flight of stairs that had to be traversed before getting to
the restaurant was probably an ample barrier to keep the wheelchairs
away. Other than being on the first floor, my "handicapped accessible
room" afforded none of the common features I find in the hotel rooms in
the US. There were no grab bars in the bathroom, the doorway was
Bahama-sized (i.e. small) and the beds were especially tall. I am not
sure why my room was classified as "accessible" because it didn't even
account for my basic needs. It took my talking to three people to secure
a shower bench, and even that was nothing more than a plastic beach
When we stayed at a resort in Florida before our cruise, a
plank board path led from the walkway to the ocean. Walking on the
boards made it so much easier for me to get to the beach! In the
Bahamas, the walkway ended at- you guessed it- a flight of steep stairs
which led to the sand.
Despite the lack of accommodations, we
had a wonderful time on our trip. The purpose of this blog is not to
diss the Bahamas but rather to show my appreciation for the Americans
with Disability Act. Because of this legislation, I don't have to
struggle with access. The Bahamas was beautiful to visit, but the
disregard for the basic needs for handicapped individuals was
At first Scott and I were both shocked by the lack
of ramps, elevators and other accommodations that I rely upon. We were
at the resort for several days before we both had an epiphany and
credited the ADA for the differences. If this legislation had not been
passed 23 years ago, I am certain that my experiences as a disabled
woman would be completely different.
Society is not perfect and
flaws still exist. There remains a lot of work that needs to be done
before we have a completely inclusive infrastructure. That being
acknowledged, I am thankful to be living in a country which attempts to
provide access for all individuals. The Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas
was beautiful, but it makes me sad that many of my amputee friends would
find it more frustrating than fun.