Local News

Some Say Disabilities Act Needs Better Enforcement

Posted July 25, 2000

— TheAmericans with Disabilites Acthas opened doors for people who need special help with life's daily tasks -- but not all doors.

People with disabilities say a lot of progress has been made since the law was passed 10 years ago. The ADA is responsible for changes like new curb designs, making them accessible to wheelchairs.

But many people say the ADA is not being enforced.

From getting out of his van to getting around town, Frank Abernethy puts a lot of effort into it. He wishes the federal government would do the same enforcing the ADA.

Abernethy says many street curbs which are supposed to be handicapped-accessible still are not.

"If I weren't real careful, I would fall out of the chair right there," he says, pointing about a curb's steep angle.

Some traffic lights make a beeping sound to let a blind person know when it is safe to cross a street. When Tim Miles crossed at a light without this function, it turned red when he was in the middle of the road.

"Some people blow their horn and say go ahead," Miles says. "They wait and let you go, and traffic stops. But everybody doesn't do that."

Work is also a big obstacle for people with disabilities. Even though Miles has an advanced degree, job opportunities are few.

"I think the employer has an attitude problem -- that if they hire a person with a disability, they will require all these special accomodations and disrupt the workplace," says employment attorney Jeffrey Starkweather.

Until people with disabilities are included in every facet of life, Abernethy says he will keep fighting.

"I think there's a long way to go," he says. "We've just barely started."

There are 58 million people in the United States living with some kind of disability. They say creating public awareness about their needs is the best way to uphold the standards of the ADA.

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