The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted into law 28 years ago in 1990. I was 19. I never thought that I would become disabled and depend on the law to protect my rights under it. I never thought that I would have to be an advocate for myself and others by proxy. But here we are. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since the Trump Administration is about protecting the richest 2% and businesses and lining Trumps pocket. Yes, I am very cynical. My dad used to tell me that I was too young to be so cynical. Personally, I think Generation X and Millennials have every right to be cynical. We’ve all been screwed over by Baby Boomers and career politicians that are detached from reality. That is a post for another time though.
Here is a newsflash. I don’t like being disabled. I don’t like being in pain. I don’t like having to use a handicapped parking space because I risk falling, and falling in a parking lot is a recipe for disaster. I don’t like having to train a dog to help take care of me because I can’t always take care of myself and I don’t always have someone to help me. No, I don’t get to take my pet with me everywhere. My dog is legally considered medical equipment just like my cane, crutches, and wheelchair. Being disabled isn’t some special club with special benefits. Being disabled sucks.
It means you don’t get to do all the fun things you want to. It means you get excluded from things. It means people judge you and make rude comments like “You don’t look sick, why are you in a wheelchair?” or “Is that cane a fashion accessory or do you really need it?” or “Your service dog is fake because you don’t look disabled.” It means fighting every day to do simple things that everyone else takes for granted. I don’t wish being disabled on anyone.
I wrote my Senators today and I wanted to share the letter that I sent. Senator Kaine got the full version of the letter while Senator Warner got a condensed version (the version I am sharing here) because his contact form only allowed for 4000 characters and I had to cut it down. The letter isn’t as eloquent as I would like but I do believe it gets my point across.
I am sure you are aware, the ADA is a civil rights law that was enacted in 1990 to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It’s hard to believe this was just enacted 28 years ago. In fact, it was enacted when I was just 19 years old. I never believed that I would need the protections that were given by the ADA, but here I am. Now it’s under attack in the form of HR 620 which has recently passed the House and is on its way to the Senate.
Due to an unfortunate genetic crap shoot I have fibromyalgia, full body arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (a form of arthritis that affects and seriously compromises the spine), COPD, and scoliosis that has caused chronic bursitis in both my right hip and right shoulder. This greatly impacts my range of motion and there are days that I cannot walk because of it and require a wheelchair. I have relied on a cane since I was about 32 years old. Needless to say, I live in pain. Recently my doctor wrote me a letter of medical need for a service dog.
I am just one of the many Americans who rely on the ADA to prevent discrimination, and now this law is under attack in the name of protecting businesses. As it is, disabled people are already discriminated against every day because business owners and those they hire do not know the law.
We want the business owners to know the law and fix the situation. We would like to be able to go grocery shopping with ease and without harassment. We want to be treated as those without disabilities. We are not second class citizens and we shouldn’t be treated as such. Unfortunately there are always going to be those who abuse the system and are looking for a quick buck from the government. That isn’t isolated to the ADA, and it’s not the fault of the law and how it’s written, or those with disabilities.
There is nothing wrong with the ADA as it is written. What is wrong is business owners are not educated on it and they do not educate their employees on it. The burden of proof and education should not fall to the disabled when it comes to businesses. We should not have to wait six months or more before we can go to court to enforce our rights. There is no other group of people in the US that has to do that. HR 620, if passed, would allow that. Who is going to protect the disabled from businesses that abuse the changes that would come under HR 620 if it were to pass?
Because it takes away the ability to sue or punish business because of failure to comply with ADA, this is going to open an entire can of worms that is going to make the life of disabled people harder than it already is, and harder than it should be. Theoretically, this could allow a business to deny access to those with service dogs for up to 6 months while they review the law and train their employees. This is unacceptable.
What we need is the law that is in place enforced. We need someone to go after these websites that claim if you register your dog with them that “you can take them everywhere”. These websites and the failure of business to know the law have resulted in people and service dogs being attacked by ill-behaved pets that have been allowed in establishments because they were illegally passed off as a service dog. We need to make it harder for those that would abuse the laws in place to do so. We need more education of the law on the part of businesses.
Please oppose HR 620 when it comes to the Senate. Please don’t make an already difficult life harder for those with disabilities. Please don’t let us become second class citizens with a law that would make it legal, at least for a short time, for the disabled to be discriminated against. Please encourage the enforcement of the laws that we already such as the service dog registry sites. Service dog registry isn’t even legally recognized and these websites exist preying on the disabled and those that are looking to break the law. The ADA has worked for 28 years. If something isn’t broke, then don’t try and fix it.