NASHVILLE – Saturday marked the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the progress made since its passage is being recognized across Tennessee.
The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in areas such as employment, public accommodations and transportation. According to Dargie Arwood, executive director of the Arc of Anderson County, one of the ADA’s key components is the guarantee of equal opportunity and access for persons with disabilities in education.
“I hear people talking about when people with disabilities were in school, if they were even in school,” said Arwood. “When people with disabilities first came into the school system, they were usually far away in a different building, and they were never in the same common areas as other kids. So it’s changed tremendously.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
Despite the advancements over the years since the ADA became law, barriers still exist, including physical accessibility along sidewalks and for taxicabs. Challenges also persist when it comes to finding employment.
Arwood said people with disabilities have a great deal to offer workplaces, but employers need to make more of an effort to appreciate those skills.
“The best way to know what someone is capable of is to get to know them,” says Arwood. “These individuals may have skills that are wonderful and we would maybe never know that because we couldn’t get past the idea that they couldn’t talk as plainly as other people, or maybe they didn’t walk the same way or they didn’t look the same way.”
According to the Tennessee Disability Coalition, one million people in the state live with with disabilities and, on average, they are more likely to be unemployed and in poverty.