Thirty years ago this week, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act into law.
It was a monumental achievement. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, transportation and more.
Its effects have been both intended (curb cuts make things easier for wheelchair users; closed captioning aids people with hearing loss) and unintended (those same curb cuts help anyone pushing a stroller or wheeling luggage; closed captions are great for TVs in noisy spots like restaurants and bars.
In Westport — as in the rest of the nation — the ADA has made building access easier. At Compo Beach, Mobi-Mats intended to ease the trek across sand to the Sound for people with mobility problems has been a boon to anyone hauling a cooler (or young kids).
The new bathrooms at South Beach are a welcome relief to many. So are the walkways that now lead from the pavilion all the way to the kayak launch.
Jim Ross — chair of Westport’s Commission on People With Disabilities — notes a few other important local initiatives.
The Remarkable Theater‘s drive-in movies have brought joy and life to Westport during this entertainment-starved COVID summer. But the theater has another, equally important mission: to create meaningful employment for the disability community. That visibility may be another legacy of the ADA.
The confidential Voluntary Registry — managed by Westport’s Department of Human Services, in conjunction with the Police Department — enables individuals with disabilities, and their families or caregivers, to register medical and living arrangements, so it can be known during a police or fire emergency.
Town officials and disability leaders are working to secure independent housing facilities on town-owned property.
An “Employment is for Everyone” initiative is in its early stages. Ross’ commission is working with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Downtown Merchants Association to help people with disabilities find employment here — and help Westport businesses better serve the disability community.
It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 Americans have some sort of disability. Have you, a relative or friend been impacted by the ADA? How does Westport compare to other places, in terms of accessibility and accommodations? Are there areas where Westport can do better? Click “Comments” below.
(For more on the 30th anniversary of the ADA, click here. Hat tips: Diane Johnson and Elaine Daignault.)