On July 26, 1990 the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into effect and we are celebrating its 25th anniversary next month. We acknowledge this important event in history with pride because it empowers us with equal rights by removing barriers. For 25 years it’s been there for us but are we exercising our rights and using the ADA as much as we could? If not, why aren’t we using it more often?
Although many people know of the ADA, they may not be familiar with it enough to use it. If that’s the case visit the many websites and blogs online to learn more about it, get acquainted! Occasionally a workshop or meeting is offered in hearing loss communities regarding the ADA, go to it. It may take a few times to understand it but keep going until you do and just so you know, you don’t have to know it word for word. The more familiar you are with it, the more comfortable you will feel using it.
Finding support is essential for journey in learning to request accommodations, especially if it’s your first time exercising your rights. You can find role models at support groups to ask for help or get recommendations on how best to handle the situation. Having cheerleaders on your side will encourage you to keep on keeping on.
My suggestion is to start small to build confidence. Advocating with your family first, then with people you meet you meet while out and about. You will find out most people are willing to help but often don’t know how. Be prepared to educate people but have the right attitude; be tactful and not demanding, teach but don’t lecture. Learn to compromise when needed.
Pick a “project” you are most likely to win but don’t expect instant success. Businesses, schools and government agencies will often fight against accommodations. The ball will go into both courts several times and push may come to shove, however, remain polite through it all. You will most likely get frustrated at some point but do not give up; the law is on our side. If you are unsure whether or not it’s right to pursue the accommodation, you can find free legal advice on the internet or maybe within your own community. The state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center here in Salt Lake offers free legal advice with an ADA lawyer every so often.
Don’t be afraid to use the media in promoting your cause. Remain diplomatic while leaving comments on Facebook and internet pages. Write a letter to the editor or see if a reporter would like to take on the story.
Sometimes we may have to fail first to prove the accommodations weren’t effective, don’t give up. Sometimes we may have to compromise, don’t give up. Other times we may lose all together but we don’t have to accept it as a defeat. We can learn from it and try a different approach next time. It’s a journey and no matter what, we are moving in the right direction.
If we all pecked away at this accommodations for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing would become more common place, making it easier and easier for the next time and the next person. Let’s use the next 25 years of the ADA to further our accommodations creating an equal environment. Working together we make it happen. Are we worth it, you bet!