Monday, July 26, 2010

Twenty Years old

Twenty years ago President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  With that action he put into action a chain of events that has made America one of the most maturely caring societies that has ever existed.  And yet for most of us ADA is still a foreign concept, a crutch for "the disabled" or even worse, another effort by our run-away leaders to make this a "nanny state".

Having recently joined the ranks of "the disabled" I am acutely aware of what accommodations have been made and which ones are still, unfortunately, far away.  Public buildings built or heavily remodeled in the past 20 years are generally disabled friendly.  I would expect total compliance but like all regulations, ADA is subject to interpretation, and exceptions.  I have wheeled up to restroom doors that are wide enough for my wheelchair but too heavy or otherwise impossible for me to open.  Alta California Regional Center, the company from which I retired, was a model of ADA compliance until they decided the best was to answer some security concerns was to eliminate electronically opening doors, making wheelchair access at least twice as difficult.

But the real difficulty for people with disabilities lies in the private sector.  If I choose to visit my children using my wheelchair, I am prevented from entering the home of all but one of them.   I need ramps installed to even fully utilize my own home.  Narrow doorways, missing support bars and inaccessible bathroom fixtures   make my life more difficult than it need be.

I'm not suggesting more regulation, more intrusion into our private lives but wouldn't you think that after 20 years architects and builders would have "caught the spirit" and begun designing and building homes that would fit everyone, not just the   healthy.  If all homes were built with the idea that a gram-pa or grandma were coming to visit every couple of months, we'd soon have a nation of ADA compliant housing.


  1. Jessica trying to make the upper half of her house ADA compliant doesn't seem as funny now as it did a few years ago.

  2. Yeah, you can get into the lower half of my house, or the upper half, but I still really need to get a bathroom to where you could easily use it.

  3. I think it was about 8-10 years ago Michigan (I think that was the state--)passed a ruling that all new houses had to have a "universal design" meaning that both the young with no disabilities and the older ones with physical challenges could live in the house without needing to change things later. Bathroom sinks were no longer enclosed in cabinets, but were free standing and sometimes people put skirts around them to store stuff if they didn't need the leg room under them. I wonder how many got modified to give more "storage space?"