Twenty-five years ago today, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law.
The legislation is about more than adding curb cuts at crosswalks or push buttons to open doors at your local bank or library -- at heart, the ADA's provisions ensure equal, civil rights to all our country's citizens. Sometimes, the only thing between life as an able-bodied person and life with a disability is an illness or an accident. The provisions of the ADA protect all of us, because you never know when you might find yourself in need of their protection.
Senator Tom Harkin, the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate, recently reflected in Ability Magazine on life before the ADA:
"We heard stories of individuals who had to crawl on their hands and knees to go up a flight of stairs or to gain access to their local swimming pools. Stories of individuals who couldn’t ride on a bus because there wasn’t a lift. Stories of individuals who couldn’t go to concerts or ballgames because there was no accessible seating. Stories of individuals who could not even cross the street in their wheelchairs because there were no curb cuts. Stories of individuals who could not buy a pair of shoes or go to the movies. In short, stories of millions of Americans who were denied access to their own communities..."
The ADA's provisions granting public access rights to Assistance Dogs were particularly important to our work at PAWS. Without them, our Client Dog Teams could still be denied entry to public spaces and businesses. They could continue to face obstacles to full participation in their communities.
This includes access to the workplace and the opportunity for financial independence. For many with disabilities, an Assistance Dog makes the difference between staying at home and meaningful work.
The second half of our mission at PAWS is "to increase awareness of the rights and roles of Assistance Dog Teams through education and advocacy." Today, we do that by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ADA and sharing the stories of two PAWS clients who have the ability to work thanks to their PAWS Dogs and the ADA: Bob and Bonnie. We hope you'll take a few minutes to read them and celebrate with us and all our PAWS Client Dog Teams.