Liberty and Justice For All Disabilities
July 26, 1990 marks a very historic day for America.
Just 26 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was officially approved. This act grants many rights to citizens with physical and intellectual disabilities. A disability is defined under the ADA as any person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, such as cerebral palsy.
48.9 million people, or 19.4% of the population, have some form of disability.
For many of us, it’s hard to remember a time without things like wheelchair accessible bathrooms, braille-lettering signs or audio signals at crosswalks. However, this hasn’t always been the case.
“At the time of the late 1980s, too many people with disabilities were out of sight and out of the minds of the general public,” Katy Neas of the Easter Seals described to NPR.
This included their access to education, transportation, job security and much more, showing us why it is so important to celebrate the 26th of July each year. By commemorating an act that has improved the quality of life for nearly one-fifth of our nation, we can ensure that we continue to provide equal opportunities for all individuals with any type of disability.
Celebrating Equal Opportunities This ADA Anniversary
Before 1990 when the ADA was approved, there were countless stories of people with disabilities pursuing their passions and paving their own path. The passing of the ADA has made it easier for those with disabilities to receive the jobs they want, have access to any public place they wish and lead an independent life.
“With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.” — George Bush, at the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As a way of celebrating equality and opportunity for all, we wanted to spotlight 5 people with various disabilities who left a powerful mark on the world. These individuals act as an inspiration, and showcase that a mental or physical disability should never stop someone from pursuing their dreams.
Here are 5 people to celebrate this ADA Anniversary:
1. Stevie Wonder
The infamous singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder was born blind – but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams. He signed his first record deal at the age of 11 and was quickly labeled a child prodigy.
Throughout the course of his career, Stevie has had more than 30 top ten hits. Chances are, he’s not quite finished yet.
2. Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was born with spina bifida, a disease that affects spine and leg development. At the age of 6 she contracted polio, leaving her legs misshapen, and at 18 she was the victim of a freak bus accident.
Despite all of the physical impairments she was left with from these events, Kahlo is remembered as being one of Mexico’s greatest artists. Her most famous self-portrait, The Broken Column, represents her physical challenges using art.
3. Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is one of the most well-known physicists in the world. He was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) when he was 21 and now uses assistive devices to speak and walk.
Hawking is most accredited for the framework of general relativity and quantum mechanics. Not to mention, he had a book on the bestsellers list for a whopping 237 weeks!
4. Abbey Nicole Curran
Abbey Nicole Curran, who was born with cerebral palsy, made headlines in 2008 when she was crowned Miss Iowa at the Miss USA pageant.
Since receiving her sash, she has appeared on countless TV shows, such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, CBS The Early Show and CNN Headline News. Curran went on to start her own non-profit pageant, “The Miss You Can Do It Pageant” for all young girls and women with disabilities.
5. Josh Blue
Most well known for his appearance on the Last Comic Standing on NBC, Josh Blue has been a funny man his entire life. Josh has cerebral palsy and many of his jokes center around his disability.
He coined the term “palsy punch”, which he used to make light of the jerky motions that many individuals with CP experience. Josh also played on the 2004 U.S. Paralympic soccer team.
The Sky Is The Limit
As we celebrate such a momentous day in American history, it’s important to reflect on how far we have come for our citizens with disabilities. Just 30 years ago, many of the rights we all enjoy every day were not granted to nearly 20% of our population.
Despite this lapse in legal protection, people with disabilities have been pursuing career paths and passions throughout all of history. The five people listed above are a very small fraction of the disabled population who went on to do inspiring and amazing things.
These individuals serve as a powerful example for anyone, with a mental or physical impairment or not, that the sky really is the limit.