Why the ADA is Important for Wheelchair Users

This month, we celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act! I appreciate this monumental shift for so much of what it’s done that I tend to take it for granted. I’ve never known the U.S. without the ADA laws, as they passed just before I was born. As easy as it is to complain about the shortcomings and loopholes, or the moments when it’s treated like a bare minimum checklist, It becomes easy to forget the alternatives if we didn’t have this law.

An Example of Why We Need the ADA

I traveled to Montreal, Canada, last month for a friend’s wedding. My husband and I arrived at our hotel late one evening. We brought our bags in, tired and ready to get to our room. We made it through the entire process of checking in, until the hotel employee cheerily handed us a room key. She said we were on the second floor and the stairs were just behind us. Clearly thinking this was a common, goofy mix-up of her not thinking or us not hearing something correctly, we afforded her some cautious laughter. Then, politely asked her to steer us to the elevator. Equally cheerily, she replied: “We don’t have one here. You never specified you needed one.”

staircase with red carpet in stylish house
Photo by furkanfdemir on Pexels.com

My husband, also a full-time wheelchair user, was confused as to how we could possibly be expected to do this. He asked her to clarify if our room was accessible. To which she stated: “All of our rooms are accessible! We just don’t have an elevator.” This meant we’d be crawling upstairs to our room and it was all considered our fault. The hotel refused to change us to a room on the first floor that late in the evening. The staff repeatedly reiterated that we didn’t tell anyone we were in wheelchairs, so it was our fault for not asking or clarifying. Despite being a hotel built in 2018, with all the modern comforts except an elevator, there was nothing dictating that the hotel needed one, not even the line of thought that having an elevator was common practice.

Grateful for What We Have

Weeks later from this trip, I still find myself surprised. Sure, we have a long way to go and plenty of things we can do to make an environment more inclusive and accessible, but I’m certainly grateful for the progress we have. I’m happy that during renovations to our home, our contractors knew comfortable doorway widths and implemented them. I’m happy they had guidelines to build our ramp with a comfortable slope and knew what sort of turnaround area was needed.

There’s plenty to learn, but I so appreciate what’s becoming engrained in our society.

About Jill Moore White: Jill is an inclusive play specialist, bringing accessible playgrounds to local communities. She volunteers with disability organizations, including the Disability EmpowHER Network. Jill enjoys music, sketching and playing video games. Click here to learn more about Jill.

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