Fifteenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Indiana University experts
EDITORS: July 26 marks the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Below are two Indiana University experts on the topic. IU's Indiana Institute on Disability and Community is co-sponsoring Indiana's 15th Anniversary of the ADA Celebration. The July 26 celebration will take place at the Indianapolis Artsgarden from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Other co-sponsors include ADA-Indiana, the Governor's Council for People with Disabilities, and Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services. People with disabilities, family members and advocates from across the state have been invited to the celebration, which is open to the public. The celebration will include daylong performances by artists with disabilities, speeches and a unique cake-cutting ceremony. For more information, contact Vicki Pappas, director of IIDC's Center for Planning and Policy Studies, 812-855-6508 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/cpps/ada/adaceleb05.html.
Much can be celebrated with the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. "Over the last 5-8 years, we have seen a dramatic shift where park and recreation practitioners are actually going beyond the minimum requirements of the law and incorporating the principles of universal design to accommodate the wide range of abilities that visitors coming to their facilities may have," said Gary Robb, executive director of the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University. "Practitioners are recognizing that designing programs and facilities with people with disabilities in mind at the onset of the project can help to build healthy communities where everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of recreation." NCA has provided education, technical assistance and research on the inclusion of people with disabilities since the center was founded in 1992 through a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service and IU's Department of Recreation and Park Administration in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In a survey of recreation professionals who have attended NCA training courses, 84 percent reported that they were able to improve staff attitudes about accessibility issues while 76 percent reported that they have been able to initiate physical access improvements to their facilities such as providing new or additional parking, entrances, restrooms, trails, playgrounds and other accessible amenities. Before this "dramatic shift," it was common for recreation practitioners to be frustrated by the ADA mandates and how exactly to facilitate inclusion of people with disabilities in various recreation venues such as playgrounds, trails, swimming pools, golf courses and beaches.
"There is still a long way to go to fulfill the promise of the ADA," said Vicki Pappas, director of the Center for Planning and Policy Studies at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. "It is an important piece of legislation that is enabling people with disabilities to become full members of communities, but the effects of exclusion and discrimination are still being felt, especially in employment and community attitudes about the ability of people with disabilities to be productive and contributing citizens." Still, in the 15 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, there have been major improvements in making public places and services more accessible to people with disabilities, she said. The law, intended to ensure equal rights for people with disabilities, has brought a host of changes in workplaces, transportation, communication and other areas. Employers must make reasonable attempts to accommodate workers with disabilities, while buildings, transportation and other public places must be accessible to all.