In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) this summer, Reisha Abolofia, Director of DRW’s Rights Investigation & Accountability Program, shared her perspective on the vital protections of the ADA, as well as the work that still needs to be done.
Breaking Through the Wall
Written by Reisha Abolofia for the July/August issue of the Washington Bar Association’s magazine, Bar News.
“In 2013, as I was entering my third year of law school, I woke up one morning feeling a tingling sensation in my left hand and arm. Days went by and the sensation turned to numbness. When I attempted to type some notes for a class, I couldn’t make my brain move my fingers. After seeking medical treatment it became clear that there wouldn’t be a quick fix for my situation. The diagnosis was indisputable: I have multiple sclerosis.
I am not someone who has lived with a disability my entire life; I was an adult when I first thought about what disability meant to me. Many people have a disability or will experience disability during their lifetime, whether it’s permanent or temporary, through a medical condition, an accident, or the aging process. Whether you were born with a disability or acquired one, whether you have had years to come to a nuanced understanding of the social and legal ramifications of your particular disability, or whether you have not yet become disabled, we all benefit from creating the inclusive society the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) intended.
I learned of my disability 23 years after the passage of the ADA, yet despite its long existence, I knew very little about this wide-sweeping civil rights law. The ADA defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities ….’ That definition applies to a lot of people who may not even know they are covered by the law—or if they do know, they may not know how to access its protections…”