July 28, 2003
Disabilities are not necessarily
"The American Foundation
for the Blind estimates that 10 million people in the United States
are blind or visually impaired. From 1998 to 1999, there were about
55,200 children with legal blindness in the United States. Not everyone
who is visually impaired is blind. 'Visual impairment is rated mild,
moderate, and severe,' explains Sharon Lehman, MD, an ophthalmologist
(pronounced: opf-thal-mah-loe-jist, a medical doctor whospecializes
in examining, diagnosing, and treating eyes and eye diseases) in Wilmington,
Delaware. 'Many people who are legally blind can see light and shadow.
In fact, if you have vision loss in only one eye, and the other eye
is correctable to 20/20, you can drive a car.'"
When people are willing to
work to overcome challenges (whatever they might be), and employers
and businesses are willing to work with them, all parties involved
are able to work together and excel in ways they would not have done
"Even heard of Dionne
Quan? Maybe not, but you may have heard her. The blind actress is
the voice of Kimi, the cowboy-booted toddler on "Rugrats,"
the popular cartoon series. Quan, who beat out 147 actors for the
part, was born with underdeveloped optic nerves. She reads her weekly
scripts in Braille."
On Saturday (July 26), President
Bush used his national radio address to speak about the Americans
With Disability Act.
"THE PRESIDENT: Good
morning. This weekend marks the 13th anniversary of the Americans
With Disability Act, one of the great compassionate acts of American
government. Since becoming law, the ADA has helped to improve the
quality of life for more than 50,000 million Americans with physical
and mental disabilities. As a result, it is easier today for people
with disabilities to find a job, to enter public buildings, and to
live more independently in their communities. These are all welcome
changes in American life.... There is much more we can do to assure
that Americans with disabilities are treated with dignity and respect...."
This act has helped some
get the accommodations they need to feel safer and more independent
as employees and business patrons.
"Lawyers for more than
1,000 current and former deaf employees at United Parcel Service yesterday
announced the settlement of a discrimination lawsuit in which the
company agreed to pay $10 million and to take steps to accommodate
deaf workers. In the settlement in San Francisco, U.P.S. pledged to
provide deaf workers with effective communications, including interpreters,
for interviews, orientation, training, safety meetings and disciplinary
While the ADA was a start,
businesses have had to change, grow, and learn over the years.
"The plaintiffs' lawyers
predicted that the settlement would encourage other companies to do
more to accommodate deaf employees.... 'This settlement is precedent-setting,'
said Caroline Jacobs, a lawyer with Disability Rights Advocates, a
nonprofit law group.... At the trial, Babaranti Oloyede, a Bay area
employee at U.P.S., testified that the company refused to provide
him with an interpreter during a safety training session on watching
for packages that might carry anthrax. He said that over 10 years
the company never provided a qualified interpreter for any other training.
Peggy Gardner, a U.P.S. spokeswoman, said, 'The measures called for
in the settlement will make what we believe is one of the best working
environments even better.'"
While many businesses have
worked hard to improve facilities, tension--and lawsuits--have not
"TWO YEARS after winning
a big lawsuit over alleged handicapped-access violations at Mission
Ranch, former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood is about to be sued again
over the same issues, according to a wheelchair-bound Florida man
who says he has stayed at Mission Ranch three times.... Shotz claims
that on his visits to the ranch, various accessibility problems prevented
him from using most of its facilities. One of the biggest problems
was the hillside path from the ranch's lower rooms to the restaurant,
he said. 'It took two-and-a-half weeks for my shoulders to stop hurting,
because the route is so steep,' Shotz maintained. The ADA requires
that 'paths of travel' at all privately owned public facilities have
a slope of no more than 8.33 percent, regardless of natural topography,
I recently had someone tell
me that she was thankful for the ADA every time she tries to get around
pushing her stroller: doors that open (and stay open) at the touch
of a button, wheelchair access ramps, bathrooms with stalls large
enough for her to bring in the baby in the stroller while she helps
her older child.
Some businesses who have
tried to accommodate have run into legal, financial, and political
(where historic or other such buildings are involved) trouble. Some
accommodations made by businesses have served more groups and members
of the community than they had initially intended. Some community
members, business, and employees have worked together so that the
benefits are spread to many members of the community with varying
levels of ability.
Questions of the Week:
What unintended community benefits have resulted from the implementation
of ADA policies? What unforeseen problems have surfaced? How has the
ADA affected your community (positively or negatively)? How can students
work together with community leaders to help create an environment
that benefits all members of the community?
* While some students may
not remember life before the ADA, thirteen years later, not all facilities
at all businesses are accessible to all people for various reasons.
For more information about what the ADA is all about,
you can visit the "U.S. Department of Justice Americans with
Disabilities Act" website at:
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum