Life before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was not the good old days if you had a disability. I was injured in a farming accident when I was about two years old and grew up with a spinal cord injury. I couldn’t wait to move to the big city when I was a teenager, and I stayed with friends in Minneapolis at every opportunity. Life in the 70’s and 80’s was difficult if you were an active wheelchair user. Public transportation was not accessible, buildings entrances were generally not accessible, restrooms were not accessible and curb-cuts were few and far between. Life back then was so dramatically different from today that it’s difficult trying to compare the two worlds.
If you were a wheelchair user and wanted to take a public bus, you had two choices; either talk someone into pulling you up the steps of the bus while in your chair, or get out of your chair (if able) rump it up the steps and ask a total stranger to fold up your wheelchair and carry it up the steps of the bus.
Getting into and out of buildings was an ongoing fight where I and others with disabilities had to constantly ask for assistance. Sometimes people would simply stare and keep walking, other times people were more than happy to help. But the reality was, one had to ask for help on a daily basis just to negotiate the stores, businesses and government buildings in their community.
Accessible, functional restrooms did not exist. When I did find that rare restroom that I could get into – the wheelchair accessible stall was 36” wide and without enough wheelchair space in front of the toilet to close the stall door. So, if you have to live in an inaccessible world without accessible restrooms, you learn to adapt, be creative and do what needs to be done. Curb cuts pretty much didn’t exist outside of a few intersections in downtown Minneapolis, so I and others learned where the alley entrances were and tried to avoid getting hit by vehicles.
Life is different today, the country is far more accessible, and the ADA has had a very positive impact! Not that we don’t have much to do yet and miles to go – but we are making measurable progress.
As of late, there has been an increase in efforts to weaken the ADA. We must fight those efforts and unite as a community to reaffirm our rights! Please join us on July 26th for a Disability Rights March and Rally. We are meeting at the Minnesota History Center at 1:00 pm to march down John Ireland Blvd to the Capitol. Once at the Capitol we will have a rally in the Rotunda with speakers and entertainment. Come and join us as we celebrate the most important disability rights legislation in our Nation’s history!
Margot Imdieke Cross, Accessibility Specialist
Minnesota Council on Disability
The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) is a broad based coalition
of advocacy and provider organizations working to change public policy to improve the lives of people with disabilities through building awareness, providing education, and engaging the community.
1600 Broadway Street NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413