Friday, July 29, 2016

The ADA: A Gift From the Disability Community to the Non-Disabled, Improving Access for All

"This elevator is a gift from the disability
 community and the ADA to the nondisabled
 people of New York," said civil rights
Sid Wolinsky. 
From NPR's Joseph Shapiro, published last year.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law 25 years ago, "everybody was thinking about the iconic person in a wheelchair," says civil rights lawyer Sid Wolinsky. Or that the ADA — which bans discrimination based on disability — was for someone who is deaf, or blind.

But take a tour of New York City with Wolinsky — and the places he sued there — and you will see how the ADA has helped not just people with those significant disabilities, but also people with minor disabilities, and people with no disability at all.

Stop 1: Dyckman Street Subway Station, Inwood, Manhattan

At this subway station at the northern tip of Manhattan, Wolinksy — who is joined by Jim Weisman, an attorney with the United Spinal Association — points to the elevator that was added after they sued the city in November 2013. Now, wheelchair users can get to the platform.

On this day, the elevator is in constant use, gliding up and down, the doors opening with a ding as people use it instead of climbing the steep stairs nearby.

But Dustin Jones, a wheelchair user who joins us, notes: "I have not seen a person with a disability yet ride that elevator. It's all been walking people."

Attorney Sid Wolinsky
Over the course of an hour, no one — other than Jones — is in a wheelchair. Jones watches a mother get on, holding the hand of one young child and pushing a baby in a stroller, while carrying bags.

"This is one of those stations where it would be really tricky to navigate a small child, a small baby with the stroller and bags, if you had to solely use the steps," he says.

Weisman, a veteran of accessibility lawsuits, also doesn't see any people with any visible disabilities enter the elevator.

"See, the elevator use is constant. So there must be a reason: Elderly people, people with vertigo and balance problems and knee problems and coordination, people choose to use the elevator," he says.

"This elevator is a gift from the disability community and the ADA to the nondisabled people of New York," says Wolinsky, who co-founded Disability Rights Advocates.

To read the whole article, click here.