What The ADA Means To Me

Posted by Candace Cable in Life After Paralysis on July 28, 2015

In this month of July throughout all the celebrations surrounding the 25 years that the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA, has been in place in the United States, there's been a question that was put to the folks and answered, all over America what does the ADA mean to you? This question was offered to the blog squad by the staff of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

We could choose to write about this for a blog, or not. I couldn't decide if I had anything to say. I mean I've been using a wheelchair for mobility for 40 years, in “the club” so I have a before and after the ADA life style, story. So I thought why not I can say a little something.

I liked what Barry Corbet had to say about lifestyle, because I look at my disability as a huge part of my lifestyle and choices, “There's power in lifestyle. It's the proof that we do have real lives, that our present economics and social disempowerment is neither terminal nor inevitable. And it's a good antidote to people who want to limit our options because they think our quality of life is as low as you can possibly get.”

In the beginning, the lifestyle I took to heart in 1975, the year of my spinal cord injury, was just that last bit of his quote, my life was as low as I could possibly get. I had no images that I could relate to, there wasn't anyone I know that used a wheelchair and was successful

But then I found my community while attending California State University, Long Beach. There they were, cooking up plans to get outside and play by creating adapted sports. I needed them, I wanted them, they understood me, I felt welcomed by all these people with different disabilities that were talking about and taking part in sports.

I wasn't a sporty girl before my SCI, but hey, I was good at learning new skills and I so wanted to feel included, again. There we were wrapping our arms around each other, encouraging each other to get an active sport lifestyle that could lead to more for us at a time when the was less for us, so I joined in. Together we conspired to create something that could give us meaning and sense of inclusion, somehow.

We lived as if we were liberated from ordinary thought, beyond the boundaries of logic, reason and the sideways that didn't exist or if they did we couldn't get on them without getting in the street. We were bold in our decisions, creative, imaginative, outrageous, seeing a world that was full of possibilities.

We knew we had resources to tap in to, each other and we believed we had the power to change the world, we had a message, hello, we want in and we will show you how. We were ready to try and fail and succeed. We had a fair amount of “who cares what you think” flag flying

Sports across the board are eye catchers, people want to know the outcome, and they pay attention.

Sport took the pity frame away. We were changing attitudes and breaking down barriers and pushing for inclusion into road races, but into an even bigger picture of life.

We were educating, the road race directors, the media, the sponsors, the public, making disability more visible and common place by combining disability awareness education and the universal language of Sports for understanding and inclusive social participation. People around the world understand the dynamics of sports. One of our goals was to get off the human-interest page and on to the sports page.

We had to create the guidelines of how to include wheelers into running road races, for the race directors, because they would not do it themselves, they didn't know how to include us, what to create, they didn't why. From the gap of 1975 to 1990 there wasn't a law that gave guides and requirements, now there is and I'm grateful.

I say often when I am teaching or training people who are non-disabled, “you don't know what you don't know, and I'm not going to hold you accountable until you know. I will have compassion for your not knowing. But once you know, my hope is that you will do better and I will hold you accountable, because you, now, know better.”

Now the ADA has been in place, for 25 years and it's brought us many changes. So back to the question, what does the ADA mean to me, more understanding and conspiring to create a world lifestyle that includes and representing everyone in “the club” and that means all the people in the world.

Sweet Dreams, and Blessings to All!!!

In Joy, Candace

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