By Rachel Onishi, Senior Academic Counselor
Twenty-five years ago there were no laws in the United States that existed to advocate for disabled people and allow them to enjoy the freedom we as a nation are proud of. One of the men who started the movement for disability rights was Lex Frieden. This past weekend, our staff had the unique opportunity to hear about the history of disability laws from his first-hand experience during the keynote address at the TX AHEAD conference.
Mr. Frieden began the story of change with the moment someone first gave voice to disabilities in the context of government. Senator Kennedy was a committed spokesperson for revolution in the way our nation addresses disabilities. He drew a clear line-in-the-sand when he encouraged congress to accept the section of Title IX declaring that if federal dollars were financing anything, it must be made accessible for disabled people as well.
However, disability rights did not become civil rights in the hearts of the American people until a crowd of wheelchair users of all ages painstakingly fought their way up the steps of the capitol building as a demonstration and final push for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26th, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law, officially making disability discrimination in the workplace and during the hiring process illegal as well as requiring employers to prevent undue hardship by providing reasonable accommodations to their disabled employees.
Mr. Frieden shared recent research found most people with a disability believe ADA has been the most impactful thing in their lives, primarily because of how it has provided access to public accommodations, but also because of increased awareness and understanding. As a TECHniques staff member, it is easy to recognize the impact that ADA law has had over the past 25 years when you are sitting in a conference session with over one hundred individuals currently working to promote accessibility and provide accommodations in higher education across the state of Texas. It is such a privilege to work for a university that strives to honor their students by leading the way with one of the best programs in the nation for students with learning disabilities.