When I wrote about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a few years ago in a piece titled, Reflections on #ADA27, here for Disabled Parenting Project (DPP), I largely focused on my daughter and inclusion.
As I reflect on it today for #ADA30, not much has changed, and yet so much has changed all at once. My daughter is a teenager now for one thing but, even as our world seems to increasingly overlook the inclusion of people with disabilities, my focus has shifted beyond simply inclusion to empowerment; if not for my sake then for my daughter, Hope.
That’s what it’s all about right, hope? I find this to be true both personally as a parent and universally as part of our collective consciousness. Yet, here we are living in a world seemingly dominated by separation and exclusion. One must ask, “Where is the hope?”
Interestingly, my most recent search for hope began on the heels of Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. She offers so much I admire and desire in a leader. She is strong, independent, unapologetic, and she was out front on many issues including disability policy. After she left the field of hopefuls, however, I began to think, “How can my daughter feel enabled and empowered when patriarchy pushes strong women downward?” Then it hit me, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
The same is true in disability circles. The ADA gives us the opportunity for a platform, and an important one, even as some work to limit it. Yet, it is also we who keep fighting forward, empowered by it, who create the energy of hope.
It’s simple if not always easy. I’m a disabled dad and I think a pretty good one. I face many obstacles and discriminations because of my disability. However, I also have privilege as a man.
Thankfully, the disabled community has many strong, positive, female leaders from whom my daughter can learn; leaders like Alice Wong, Amy Gaeta, and DPP’s own Robyn Powell to name a few. It is up to me as a father to lift up their voices and share them with my daughter.
Representation matters. Just as I sought out a female guitar teacher when my daughter wanted to learn to play, she must see others with whom she can identify in all aspects of life. This is how empowerment happens.
Likewise, the ADA provides us, as people with disabilities, a platform for empowerment. What we do with it is up to us.