Progress for People Who are Different or Just Change?

This month is the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990 President George H. W. Bush signed into law the most comprehensive civil rights act in U.S. history for people with disabilities. The ADA ensures individuals with disabilities the right to access employment, communications, and travel including the right to enter retail establishments and other public places previously not accessible to many.

At the time of the signing I believe I commented to my leadership staff that the act is only as good as those of us that must make it a reality, those who work to ensure people with disabilities have the same opportunity and right to participate in everyday life as anyone else.

So 25 years after the signing of this monumental legislation, how do things look from my vantage point?

In practical everyday terms and life I would say very mixed. It is great to see advances in accessibility for individuals who are non-ambulatory. Just yesterday I marveled at the curb cuts being installed in the City of Tumwater on a street improvement project along Capitol Way. But I was disheartened while looking for new office space in Tacoma recently. Morningside’s Don Hayden had extreme difficulty getting into some buildings. Don is fine with us using him to test accessibility at each potential location. He’s glad to do it out of self-preservation because he will need to enter the building to do his tech work and needs to be able to reach the computers. As a matter of fact the ordinary corner store may indeed not be accessible unless someone frequents the store regularly who is in a chair. So while it is at best spotty in some areas there have been fantastic achievements in accessibility in other areas. Think about cell phones that have the ability to text messages for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing (no, my son, it wasn’t invented for you) or other technological advancements that benefit individuals with disabilities. But basically acceptance and inclusion lies in the consciousness of people.

The same can be said in the area of employment for people with disabilities. My blog post of April 7, 2015 entitled “I don’t need no stinkin’ handout! Part III” briefly mentioned that my son, Andrew, with a visible disability had a hard time finding work and I had to hire Morningside to find him a job. In spite of his high school diploma, a fun personality, and great references he was unable to find work on his own. His visible disability was just too much for a many people to process and accept.

Discrimination and hatred still abound and no law, unfortunately, can change that. This past week we experienced the Governor in South Carolina signing a law forbidding the flying of the confederate flag at the state capitol. The spark that caused the removal was a mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, on the evening of June 17, 2015. Nine people were killed, including the senior pastor by a white racist. But the flag has long been a symbol of white supremacy since the state declared succession from the Union as a pro-slavery state. How long have persons of color been treated as second class citizens? How long have they endured bitter hatred? Discrimination to the point of physical harm even death? Have similar things occurred to individuals with disability? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

So while I cheer and celebrate this anniversary milestone I do so with a mixture of emotions. Hope for a better tomorrow but also with a sad acknowledgement of today’s continuing struggle.


Picture of the historic signing of the ADA

President Bush signing the ADA into Law









Standing from left to right are Rev. Harold Wilkie of Clairmont, California and Sandra Parrino of the National Council on Disability. Seated from left to right are Evan Kemp, Chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission, President George Bush, and Justin Dart of the Presidential Commission on Employment of People with Disabilities


CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside

This space is intended to share my thoughts and update the community on issues concerning Morningside and its clients as well sharing inspirational employment stories.

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