There has been a lot going on in my life recently, and consequently, I am a few days behind. On July 26th, I “celebrated” an anniversary of sorts. The 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law.


It was several years back, but the incident still shines bright in my memory. On a warm summer night, a friend of mine and I went to see a movie. Something Disney if I recall. But I don’t remember any details of the movie. What I remember is what happened before the movie started.

I was halfway to my chair and not quite balanced from the transfer out of the car yet when I noticed her. A little girl, maybe ten years old, making her way to the front entrance. She walked on crutches and wore long-legged braces just like I did when I was a kid. But here’s the thing. Her braces were made of incredibly light and breathable material, and the straps were all fastened with Velcro. This little girl was simply going to a movie, but in my eyes, she could move as fast as Billy Mills running for the gold.

As I watched her, my mind flashed back to when I was growing up. I had braces made of leather and metal that were hot and awkward and uncomfortable. There were times that it felt like they weighed more than I did. Because they were so heavy, I couldn’t go anywhere quickly, and the speed at which I traveled only added to the stares and looks of pity that I often received. It was around that same time in my life when my family and I encountered lots of inaccessibility. Some days it seemed there were steps everywhere in the world and so much of what I wanted to see and do was just out of my reach.

But I grew up. And I learned to advocate. Then came July 26th, 1990. I was sitting in the living room in my parents’ house when I caught the headline on the news. George H.W. Bush had signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law that day. As he did so, he said, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

I didn’t know much about what it meant back then, and I am by no means an expert on the ADA even now. I know it says there must be equal access to employment for people with disabilities and that anywhere the public goes, like restaurants, stores, stadiums, college campuses, and movie theaters must be accessible. The ADA says that by law, it is no longer okay to discriminate and exclude people with disabilities. The law says that this population needs to be part of life in the mainstream, just like everyone else.

As I watched that little girl high tail it to the movie theater, I could not help but smile at all the progress that has been made since I was her age. Long-legged braces are designed so kids can be comfortable and move in them freely. That little girl could keep up with her family. She could keep up with anyone in her world.

I have been a bit behind lately because there is a whole lot going on in my life right now. I missed marking the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with this blog post. But I would bet all the money in my bank account that little girl is never going to be behind. She is never going to struggle in the same ways as I did. Her disability might make parts of her life challenging and I don’t want to minimize that at all. I’m just saying I think it is fabulous that she is part of a generation of kids who have never known anything different than inclusion. My hope for her is that all the people that she interacts with see her as a little girl first and foremost and see her disability as simply as one of the many characteristics she possesses. Like her smile. And her speed.

The impression that I got from watching was that she was a real go-getter, who had been taught not to let anything hold her back. And now, in part because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, nothing will.