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OMANA: There is still work to be done for people with disabilities

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On Dec. 2, two days after the death of former President George H. W. Bush, Vox published an article in which they remembered the monumental Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed during the Bush administration back in 1990. 

The act prohibited discrimination against those with disabilities and was “seen as of the equivalent of the Civil Rights Act for individuals with disabilities,” according to Vox. Rachel Withers of Vox interviewed Lex Frieden, former director of the National Council on Disability who is also known as the "chief architect” of the ADA. They spoke of the bill, how paramount it was for people with disabilities and the challenges that they still face today, even after the monumental ADA. 

Frieden said the ADA covered the physical and social discriminations of those with disabilities. Frieden also said the bill created accommodations and inclusion for those with mobility, hearing, sensory and visual impairments as well as those with cognitive disabilities. 

While this bill is important to people with disabilities, they continue to face an array of problems today, especially in regard to the lack of enforcement of the ADA.

“Employers continue to discriminate, people who are inspecting buildings fail to invoke the rules of access, private entrepreneurs ignore the ADA when they are developing new business enterprises," Frieden said.

Frieden also said that we as a society are not ready for the influx of people with disabilities, now that Baby Boomers are getting older. 

" (They will) wish to be independent, not living in institutions but accommodated in the home that they have lived in most of their lives," Freiden said. 

To allow those with disabilities to live independently, rather than looked upon as incapable, is something the world has yet to accomplish. Although society has come a long way in regard to inclusivity for people with disabilities, there is still much to be done. From technology to higher hotel rates, those with disabilities and their families face difficult challenges that are completely preventable. 

"A standard non-smoking room with two double beds is available for $46 per night on the Choice Hotels website. The accessible equivalent of that room is $148 per night, more than triple the room rate for able-bodied guests! This 'tax' on accessibility is not unique to this hotel, and is repeated at many other low-cost and budget properties," according to

While teens with disabilities may be allowed to participate in school trips where they stay in hotels, they will have to pay a higher rate for that room. That raises the question: will the school pay for it? What if the family cannot afford a room that is triple the rate of a regular room?

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided more examples of the ways in which people with disabilities continue to face challenges even after the ADA. Written health promotion messages include no Braille or visual alternatives for those who use screen readers. Auditory health messages may be inaccessible to those with hearing impairments, as some videos may not include captioning or oral communications with accompanying manual interpretation, such as American Sign Language (ASL). These are all examples that exclude people from living a comfortable life equal to that of people without disabilities.

Stigma, prejudice and stereotyping lead to others seeing disabilities as tragedies. This outlook on people with disabilities often leads to societal inaction that does not provide adequate and equal policies or accommodations for them. 

"By not considering a disability a personal deficit or shortcoming, and instead thinking of it as a social responsibility in which all people can be supported to live independent and full lives, it becomes easier to recognize and address challenges that all people — including those with disabilities — experience," according to the CDC.

It is not about pitying people with disabilities. They are capable, valuable and do not want to be pitied. The problem, though, lies in the ways in which society tends to dehumanize them rather than enacting policies and enforcing laws that are inclusive. Those with disabilities should be a recognized part of society instead of just tolerated. 

Breana Omana is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in political science. Her column, "Left Brain, Right Brain," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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