Thirty-two years ago today, on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as The ADA, was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. For someone like myself who identifies as having a disability, this law has made a big impact for myself and so many other generations of people, and it will continue to have an impact long after I am gone. Today, I’d like to share a story that shows why laws prohibiting discrimination like The Americans with Disabilities Act are so important.
To help you understand this story, I have to take you back to when I was in middle school to my 7th-grade year. I had decided that I wanted to be a cheerleader for my high school. I attended the tryouts every day and did my very best. At the end of that week, I was not selected for the cheer squad, and I was content with knowing that I did my very best and went on with the rest of my day. The school contacted my mother a few days later and told her they would love to have me on the cheerleading squad. At first, they wanted me to be a mascot, but my family and I politely declined, and I was asked to be the manager for the cheerleading squad, which I accepted.
Soon, things quickly took a turn for the worse, and it was not what I expected it to be. After I joined the program, I was told that I was not allowed to wear the same outfits as my peers because I wasn’t actually considered a cheerleader; I was considered the “manager” So, for that first year, I did not get to wear the majority of the same uniform as my fellow peers.
My family was also told that they were responsible for helping me with anything I needed if I needed anything at the games, like getting me food from the concession stand or helping me with personal assistance like going to the bathroom.
Even though the school were the ones that asked me to join the team, they said I could only participate if I had my own transportation. This means that I was not able to be on the bus with my peers and my grandparents took me to and from every single football and basketball game at home and away games.
Once I arrived at the away games, it was up to my family and me to figure out where accessible entrances were in the building because all my other teammates and coaches were already there! Sometimes we even had to track down certain people to figure out where to go because no one knew where to go!
But the biggest disappointment was when I was told I was not even allowed to go on my own home team’s football field. In order for me to be able to participate, I had to be outside of a fenced area while everyone else was on the field. But at every single away game I went to, I was allowed to be on the field with my peers, and it was never even an issue. So I can truly say, for the first time in my life. This was the first time I had ever felt discriminated against and inferior because of my disability.
Eventually, during my freshman year of high school (3 years later!) I was able to go out on the field, but I had to be accompanied by my grandfather. I finished my freshman year of cheerleading, and I decided that I wouldn’t try out again. I have had enough and decided that nobody should be treated this way.
This is exactly why the Americans with Disabilities Act was created to ensure that people with disabilities can participate in society fully and not be discriminated against because of their disability.
So if you asked yourself why is the ADA so important? I hope this story helps demonstrate why this law is so important, and even though this is a step in the right direction, there is still so much work that needs to be done.
Also, I have learned from my own experience that do not settle for less and make sure to fight for your rights! People with disabilities have the right to participate fully in society and be active in the community. Laws like the ADA help us to achieve whatever goals we desire!
In closing, I would like to share a quote with you that President George H.W. Bush famously said, In his speech when the ADA was signed into law. “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down. “