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The underlying goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act was to ensure people whose ability to move about is limited would enjoy many of the liberties guaranteed to everyone else.
It looked good on paper, and to a large degree that’s where it remained.
A report issued in 2009 contained a foreword by Attorney General Janet Reno celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The ADA is making the dream of access a reality,” she wrote.
The report’s chapter titles provide an outline of the act’s goals, including “Participating in Everyday Civic Life,” “Opening Up Jobs ...,” “Enjoying the American Way of Life” and “Ensuring an Accessible Future.”
Fast-forward to 2012, and we learn that someone has blown the dust from the act and noticed that despite Reno’s glowing assessment, many of its requirements mandated all those years ago were never implemented.
As the News reported beginning in March, the Bernardin-Lochmueller engineering firm of Evansville informed county officials the federal highway administration has issued a deadline for communities nationwide to develop policies for receiving and responding to complaints about access to government facilities. Failure to comply would be penalized by the withholding of highway funds.
The threat was issued nationally, and is evidence too little has been done on that level to comply with the ADA.
A first draft of Perry County’s policy has been issued and will be attached to a story in this edition when it’s uploaded to the News’ Web site. A form will be included that people can use to report problems, and we invite county residents to take advantage of the offerings.
Those of us who encounter the occasional wheelchair user may have the idea, perhaps fostered by users themselves, that they “can get around just fine, thank you very much.” What we may be seeing, however, is how they have adapted to a world that is incredibly slow to change.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990.
We don’t know whether the county’s response to the new push of an old mandate will bring a flood or a trickle of grievances, or any at all. A report by Shaun Heasley published Wednesday at www.disabilityscoop.com notes that transportation is a major obstacle for people with disabilities, with more than 500,000 never leaving their homes simply because they lack a way to get around. Heasley cited a report issued last week from The American Association of People with Disabilities and The Leadership Conference Education Fund that found “extensive problems for those living in both urban and rural locales when it comes to getting from point A to point B.”
We are aware of several ongoing efforts, some receiving county support, to help disabled county residents enjoy the freedom mobility offers. We commend the public and private initiatives that are already improving lives and hope the federal mandate will eliminate any gaps that may exist in those services.
The intent of publishing the draft policy is to seek public comments on it toward crafting tools for giving the county’s disabled residents that freedom. If you or someone you know can’t enjoy the county’s offerings because of mobility issues, please involve yourself in the process just getting under way to correct problems the ADA tried to fix more than two decades ago.
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