31 and counting! Recommitting to the Spirit and Intent of the ADA
The fashion was flannel, neon and scrunchies. The music was grunge. The top box office was Home Alone, Goodfellas and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Oil hit a record $40/barrel. Gas sold for $1.08 and a postage stamp was 25 cents. Seinfeld premiered. The Cincinnati Reds won the World Series. And President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law.
Wow! 31! Can you believe the ADA is turning 31 this year!?
What were you doing 31 years ago? Had you even heard of the ADA yet? What was your organization doing 31 years ago to respond to the groundbreaking civil rights legislation?
I will be the first to admit….I didn’t have a clue about the ADA 31 years ago. It wasn’t until 1992-1993 when we were in the midst of transition planning at the Rockford Park District that I realized how big this thing really was. With 17 regional parks and facilities, 5 golf courses, three pools, a major waterpark and more than 100 neighborhood parks, our accessibility management team was getting a reality check. There was no way that we were going to meet the Title II deadline to remove the physical barriers to program access. We had made some pretty significant improvements to accessibility in our parks and facilities that had been identified as top priorities. However, we had estimated more than $4 million in architectural corrective actions were still needed. We HAD to report the reality to our 5-person elected board of commissioners. We knew there would be no sugarcoating it. But we also knew, we couldn’t just bring the problem, we had to bring a solution….a RESOLUTION! We asked our board of commissioners to recommit to the spirit and intent of the ADA. Oh yes, they had passed a resolution in 1990 supporting the ADA when it was first passed into law. But now, 3 years later, we were asking them to recommit with another resolution. In essence, they made the public affirmation that inclusion was a shared value and top priority for the municipality. Moreover, they made the public promise for staff to continue working on implementation of the transition plan while budgeting annually for capital improvements specific to accessibility.
Commitment from the top! Every successful accessibility management program starts with commitment from the top! The Board. The Executive Director. The Superintendent. The Deputy Directors. During this, the 31st anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are going to hear a lot about recommitting to the civil rights law. What better time than January to start asking the questions within your organization:
- Where have we been? What progress have we made within our organization to improve access to programs, services, and activities for our citizens and visitors with disabilities?
- Where are we going? What more do we need to do to ensure full access for people with disabilities?
- How will we recommit to the spirit and intent of the ADA?
So here’s your homework. Start asking the questions. Then send me an e-mail. We want to hear what you have to say about recommitting to the ADA 31 years and counting.