ADA, IDEA, DD Act Anniversaries
The universal design of our environment has changed and much progress has been made because of the ADA, IDEA, and the DD Act. Examples are included in this segment. We have come a long ways but there’s “still a long way to go.”
Oh, when I think of the ADA, – you know, I'm grateful for the environmental changes that we've had, the universal design of our environment and of architecture so that doors work electronically and curb cuts and parking that –just to visit another country where that is not in place is such a recognition of how far we have come, still a long way to go, but major progress in universal design. Um, there's much more awareness of employment and the importance of employment for people with disabilities.
I think that the employment gains in terms of number of people with disabilities working has not had the 30-year boost yet that we thought that it would have. There's approximately 33% of adults with disabilities working and approximately a little over 70% of people without disabilities. We still have a big gap to close, but there's much more sensitivity to employment and much more emphasis now for people with developmental disabilities to not go to sheltered workshops, but to go to regular jobs. That's probably one of the biggest shifts in employment, has been from sheltered work to integrated work. There's also changes in public accommodations, of people having access to buildings and to transit that we've come a long way.
I had an interesting encounter just last weekend. I was meeting with a family at a restaurant who wanted to talk about advocacy for their preschooler with autism. And their preschooler has some behavioral and social challenges aligned with autism, and so I suggested we go to a restaurant where there was a little play area for children and I told them that I would call and reserve a table, the table that was right next to the play area so we can sit and talk and watch their child play. And when I called the manager, she said that the restaurant doesn't take reservations.
And so I said, "Well," you know, "consistent with ADA, I'm asking you for a reasonable accommodation, and this child has autism," and I went on to explain. And she said, "You know," she said, "I would do it for ADA, "but my neighbor has autism, and I really get. "And so I'm a person who doesn't need ADA, because I have a personal experience with autism."
And I just chuckled, and I thought, "That is part of ADA," that people now are able to live more in their communities, to know people with disabilities and by that personal relationship, you put the personal relationship with the legal mandate and it's amazing how quickly we got a reserved table and had a delightful lunch. We have to appreciate and acknowledge and affirm, because it'd be too discouraging not to.
But we can't rest on our laurels and think, "Just because we have that law--" in fact, in congress last year, there was attempt to roll ADA back on employment and that was defeated. But we have to always watch for that. Oh, when I think about the 45th anniversary of the Federal Education Legislation, I celebrate primarily access of all children, remembering when my son, Jay, was school-age, the school didn't serve him and other children with similar needs. School bus didn't stop at our house.
Now all children, almost all children have access, and that's huge progress. Parents have far more opportunity for input and for joint decision making than they ever had in the past. That's a huge accomplishment. There are many more students especially with mild disabilities in inclusive educational classrooms. And another thing that is huge is people who have worked in the area of behavior challenges – which is often the biggest challenge that educators have is students with significant acting out behavior – there has been huge progress in providing appropriate support so that children learn appropriate behavior. And all of those things are just grand.
In terms of the Development Disabilities Act, um, it has multiple dimensions that have been critically important. The first one that comes to mind are the Developmental Disabilities Councils, such as the Governor's Council here in Minnesota that Colleen Wieck directs. And that DD Council is the patriarch and matriarch of DD Councils around the country.
The program that was done on Partners in Policymaking is huge in terms of its national and international impact. The DD Act created the funding for that work to be done, and there is so much to celebrate in the progress that has been made in DD Councils around the country. And being the innovators, being the people who are bringing in the new ideas and plowing new territory, that is the DD Act.
Another funding option of the DD Act is university programs that put peer… professionals from a range of disciplines: psychology, education, rehabilitation, speech and language audiology, nutrition, nursing, medicine; all of these fields and how to identify the particular strengths and needs of people with disabilities and how to provide appropriate support as well as conducting innovative research. And those programs, the supported employment that does the integrated employment, that has a huge base in these university programs funded by the DD Act.
And then a third branch of the DD Act is Protection and Advocacy Agencies that, um, ensure that the law is implemented on behalf of people with disabilities and their families. I'm working with a single mom of color now and her son with autism who has been very mistreated by the public school that he attends, where the P and A system, the Protection and Advocacy system, is representing her and having a compensatory education for her son, because the school has done wrong by him. So those programs are the backbone and the heartbeat of our disability field.