America failed disabled people


Staff photo by Erin Sockolof

A wheelchair sits adorned with American flags in a beige room.

America is known for being among the freest countries in the world. One of the liberties that comes with being an American citizen is moving openly within the country. However, people who have disabilities know all too well that they don’t share this same privilege.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was established to ensure that disabled people have access to reasonable accommodations and are given the same civil rights as the rest of American citizens. In theory, this act helps disabled Americans live safely and comfortably. 

However, even in ADA-compliant spaces, these people aren’t always adequately accommodated. From uneven ground to small bathroom stalls, every aspect of an ADA compliant area can pose challenges for people with disabilities.

With 15 percent of Americans living with some form of disability, one would think necessary accommodations would be a high priority for society. But unfortunately, the 56.7 million Americans that require these accommodations or modifications are far from top of mind. 

Ultimately, ableism lies at the heart of this issue. Ableism, also known as disabled prejudice, is the practice of favoring able-bodied people. This is a significant form of discrimination and frequently leads to false information and misconceptions about disabilities being spread. 

The ignorance this causes results in unsafe and inaccessible spaces being approved by multiple agencies as ADA-compliant.

Despite this, disabled people are still expected to live their lives as if nothing is wrong. I deal with many disabilities in my day-to-day life and I am tired of pretending I am okay. 

We can’t choose or control our disabilities, so why are we being punished for having them?

Just recently, I was shopping for my senior prom dress. I was in a store for three and a half hours with no seating available. For the entirety of my time there, I could only think of how much pain I would be in the next day. Because there was no seating, not only did my pain worsen, but I didn’t get to enjoy my prom dress shopping experience. 

How can a missing chair exacerbate my symptoms so much? How are other people with disabilities affected by this? Why wouldn’t a store accommodate its guests properly?

This is just one of many examples I have experienced in the past month. Everywhere I go, there is the risk of worsening my symptoms. That’s something I and the rest of America’s disabled people have to deal with on a daily basis. 

We are forced to sacrifice our well-being and live in a state of constant fear over every quick run to the grocery store and night out. 

How has the ADA failed so many people despite setting out to do the opposite? 

The physical accommodations guaranteed by the ADA are only one small part of where it has failed. Additionally, despite the countless regulations outlined in the act, you can still find discrimination in public transportation, employment, government-related activities and more

It is time we stand our ground and fight for the rights and access we deserve. There is no reason that in 2022 we should have to stand in a store for hours, fight for a seat, be denied water or be refused entry. We can’t choose or control our disabilities, so why are we being punished for having them? 

Reach out to your local and state representatives and express your disappointment and desire for reform.