In July, Citizen Advocates celebrates Disability Pride Month in recognition of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA, signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, was a landmark law that prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities.
In the same year the law was signed, Boston held the first Disability Pride Day. Since then, parades celebrating disability pride in major U.S. cities have become a regular occurrence. More recently, former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared Disability Pride Month to celebrate the ADA’s 25th anniversary.
This month is a chance to honor each person’s uniqueness as “a natural and beautiful part of human diversity.” Disability Pride Month celebrates disabled persons embracing their disabilities as integral parts of who they are, reclaiming visibility in public and interacting fully with their disabilities out in the open, and rejecting shame.
The history of Citizen Advocates is inextricably intertwined with the history of providing person-centered services to people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Originally founded in 1975, Citizen Advocates was created in response to the unmet needs of the “mentally, emotionally, and physically disabled of Franklin County.” The passing of the ADA in 1990 would also have a marked impact on the provision of services for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Nanette Winter, a 43-year Citizen Advocates employee, notes the changes in the approach to providing support.
“Today we have person centered language and supports – we have positive behavioral interventions and whole person care. We are helping guide people to their fullest potential and providing support, experiences, and education so they can exercise all the basic human rights that are so important to all of us. It is with great pride that I see every human service agency heading in the direction of supporting the people we work with to understand and exercise their rights every single day so they can live their lives to the fullest!”
Another long-term Citizen Advocates employee, Marc Richardson, shared his experience with how access to the community changed since the passing of the ADA.
“I recall when I was a DSP in 1991, we had portable wheelchair ramps that we utilized. These ramps where standard adaptive equipment on many outings and all our houses had them. Access to the community in 1991 was often less than optimal. Many of the beautiful and historic properties, often large Victorian homes that had been converted to businesses and health care offices where not built with accessibility in mind. The ADA, quite literally, paved the way to improved access in this community and communities across the nation. The number of lives the ADA has and will continue to make better is simply innumerable.”
If you are interested in learning more about how you can celebrate Disability Pride Month, check out this article.
Or, check out this video.
If you, or someone you know, is a person in need to services, please reach out to Citizen Advocates.