Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The American with Disabilities Act: Dreams for the Future

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The American with Disabilities Act: Dreams for the Future

Article excerpt

January 26, 1992 marked the beginning of the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After years of work to get this legislation enacted, from this date forward the issue of "access" will have to be considered in employment, education, housing and transportation -- in short, all aspects of community life.

Many are already saying that the goals of this legislation are unrealistic. Not only do they feel that the costs of making access available will be higher than society can afford, but they also believe we are giving people with disabilities unrealistic hopes and expectations which cannot be fulfilled. They accuse us of setting goals for people with disabilities that they cannot reach. They say people with disabilities will suffer disproportionally from their efforts and subsequent failures.

Because of the ADA and other major changes in our society, parents can have dreams of success for their children with disabilities. All parents are concerned about their expectations for their children. Yet, at the same time, parents are deeply concerned about the possible vulnerability of their children. As children become more independent, parents worry whether the children are ready and wonder if the word will welcome them. For parents whose children have disabilities, these concerns can be inhibiting. However, we can recall similar challenges about "unrealistic expectations when the courageous dreams of including children with disabilities in the mainstream of public education began to become a reality. In fact, some even continue to challenge the educational rights of children with disabilities that were affirmed by law in 1975!

Reality is changing because people with disabilities, their parents and concerned professionals and advocates have stopped accepting the prejudicial limitations that others have tried to impose. As barries began to disappear, children and adults with disabilities began to have more opportunities to demonstrate their abilities and test out their dreams. Limited expectations were gradually replaced by new, optimistic expectations that, given real opportunities, children and adults with disabilities and their families could prosper.

Years ago, parents were expected to "accept" the "reality" of their child's limitations and the real world in which there were insurmountable barries to the child's potential for participation in education, employment and even recreation. …

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