ADRS celebrates the 29th anniversary of the ADA

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The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and Montgomery Area Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities invited other state agencies and friends to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act Thursday, July 25.

The group gathered in the fourth-floor conference room of the ADRS 560 S. Lawrence St. building to celebrate this important day in history.

ADRS Assistant Commissioner James Myrick welcomed the crowd and reflected on the signing of the act as well as its importance.

“That was a very significant piece of legislation that provided opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” he said. “We are here today to celebrate that. I consider it to be a grand opportunity for us to be here and do that.”

Graham Sisson, executive director of the Governor’s Office on Disability, had an opportunity to see his life changed by the ADA.

Sisson, who was paralyzed from the waist down June 27, 1982, when the car he was in was struck by a drunk driver, said he was a third-year law student at Vanderbilt University when the act was signed.

Sisson reflected on life before the ADA for people with disabilities, saying they were often excluded from mainstream society and sometimes placed in institutions out of sight and out of mind.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act abolished these ugly laws. It brought down that wall of shame and exclusion,” he said.

The ADA encourages people to see those with disabilities as equals and not as those in constant need of assistance, Sisson said. He added that the strides made in 29 years are just the beginning of efforts to bring equal opportunity.

The ADA is used as a general reminder of the importance of equal rights for people with disabilities. It has not eliminated all issues, but the ADA has made a difference, he said.

Sisson said many establishments now have ramps, wider doorways, accessible bathrooms, and accessible parking, but not all facilities are up to par.

“It is my dream that I will someday not have to call ahead to make sure that something is accessible, and I think the ADA will one day lead to that dream coming true,” he said.

The push for full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of American society must continue, Sisson said. America has come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.

“Let’s celebrate how far we have come, but let’s also look forward to going even further in the future,” he said.

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