People with disabilities have come a long way when it comes to physical and legal access, but disability advocates and attorneys will say more is needed.
Because of this, May 7th is a special day for people with disabilities, a date known as National Barrier Awareness Day.
On May 7, 1986, the former president published Ronald Reagan Proclamation 5472celebrating the day with events and programs that would help remove the barriers faced by people with disabilities. Congress also officially declared the date to be “National Barrier Awareness Day”.
“This day is a great opportunity for people to take a look at their own beliefs and reflect on how our community may not be accessible to all,” said Ally McCabe, educational advocacy coordinator for Access to Independence of Cortland County, Inc .
She added, “It is an opportunity for our community to reflect on how we may not give full access to all members of our community with disabilities.”
The American With Disabilities Act of 1990, a civil rights law banning discrimination based on disability, opened the door to opportunities for people with disabilities.
Despite the enactment of the law, McCabe believes “there is still a lot of room for improvement”.
One improvement is physical accessibility to local common areas. McCabe said, “Someone in a wheelchair has a lot of barriers.”
“Using a wheelchair is not a barrier, but entering an open door is a barrier,” she added. “It’s a common example of someone who would be able to fully participate in the community.”
McCabe said that hiring judgment when hiring for a job is an issue that people with disabilities face on a regular basis.
“Sometimes a hiring manager mistakenly believes that people with disabilities cannot work as fully as their non-disabled counterparts,” she added. “A disabled person may be qualified but is overlooked for the position.”
Addressing these issues locally is the goal of Access to Independence – a non-profit, independent residential center run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities.
ATI is a cross-disability organization that supports people with all types of disabilities for all ages. It deals with housing, employment and emergency preparedness issues.
“We have a number of community coalitions working on such issues,” said McCabe.
McCabe mentioned that all of next week will be a statewide legislative disability week, dealing with issues with local legislators.
Local residents who wish to volunteer as attorneys for ATI can either contact McCabe, register in person at the ATI office, or register on the organization’s website at www.aticortland.org.
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