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Americans with Disabilities Act turns 30, advocates say change still needed

Man using a wheelchair
Posted at 3:50 AM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-21 13:51:31-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on a disability. It also requires accommodations for folks with disabilities.

In Colorado Springs, the Independence Center has been fighting for rights for the disabled community for 36 years and while they're celebrating this occasion, they're also pointing out the change that still needs to happen.

During this pandemic, Patricia Yeager, CEO of the Independence Center, says the ADA has prevented many folks with disabilities from losing their jobs since employers have to provide reasonable accommodations for them and find ways to keep them working. But on the flip side, the center has noticed many folks trying to abuse it so they can be exempt from wearing a mask, and they say this is a major setback in what they're trying to accomplish.

The center wants the public to know, the ADA is for folks with a documented disability and it only requires a reasonable accommodation. It is not a blanket exemption for not wearing a mask, and it does not allow putting others at risk.

So for instance, if you cannot wear a mask while shopping, you can opt for curbside pickup or online ordering. That means business owners, you do not have to allow someone in your business without a mask. However, you can offer a compromise. But the center's worried that hostile interactions from folks claiming a disability will only cause problems.

"People without disabilities who are claiming this right do not speak for the rest of us," Yeager said. "The rest of us have been in this disability stage for some time and we know that it is a compromise between our needs and the store's needs. And I'm fearful that the people who are abusing this are causing people to be shut out."

Again, the key here is compromise. So, they're asking for folks to change the narrative and find solutions that work for both customers and businesses - without claiming a right they've fought for the disabled community to have.

To celebrate the ADA's 30th anniversary, the center is going to be sharing a 1-hour presentation at noon Tuesday. It will highlight all the changes that have happened throughout the city to make transportation and other aspects of life easier for folks with disabilities.

Mayor John Suthers will even be discussing accessibility features at the new Summit House at the top of Pikes Peak. It's free and everyone is encouraged to join the conversation. To register, click here.

You can also stream the event here:
https://www.youtube.com/c/TheIndependenceCenter/live [youtube.com]

Or watch the replay here: https://bit.ly/2020-ada-video [bit.ly]