Friday, July 10, 2015

Quick Ideas for Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the ADA this July

Guest post by Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., Senior Psychologist, Emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

This July the nation will observe the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This is a far-reaching piece of civil rights legislation for equal access for the 19% of Americans who have disabilities. For those of us with disabilities, the ADA anniversary on July 26 is sort of like the Fourth of July Independence Day. So celebrating is a good thing to do. There many kinds of accessibility to celebrate in addition to curb cuts and wide doors, like service animals, hearing loops, and accessible websites.

If your library would like to celebrate, here are a few ideas:

*       A lively interactive program titled something like "Being an Access Daredevil: Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act" featuring your library patrons with disabilities talking about what they're celebrating, and showing off high and low tech adaptive devices they use.
*       A display of the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award winners for books for children and teens about the disability experience.
*       A display of accessible library materials like books that are both in print and braille, DVDs that are captioned and/or audio-described, large print newsletters, and iPad games that are accessible using voiceover.
*       A display of memoirs of the disability experience by writers from your state.
Accessible icon white on blue
Check out the new symbol at
The Accessible Icon Project
*       An informational display about local service agencies and consumer groups such as Centers for Independent Living or Aging and Disability Resource Centers. Use a few access gizmos to attract people to the display. Use the new access symbol in your display as well as the old one to point out how the times are changing! Also consider pictures of local sites like accessible playgrounds, audible traffic lights, and local disability history milestones.

Some useful websites on disability history are:

*       Center on Human Policies: Disability Studies for Teachers: This site is a reference tool for teachers in Grades 6-12. It includes lesson plans, activities, and materials for teaching disability history.
*       Disability History Museum: This site promotes understanding about the historical experience of people with disabilities by recovering, chronicling, and interpreting their stories. The site's library contains document and visual stills collections.
*       Disability Social History Project: This resource is a community history project that provides information about famous activists in the disability movement, a disability history timeline, and related information.
*       Family Village: This resource centralizes a number of resources on disability history.
*       Resource Center for Independent Living: This site provides a timeline of the disability civil rights movement.
*       Smithsonian National Museum of American History: This site offers a virtual tour of the Disability Rights Movement Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
*       Tolerance.Org: Activities for classrooms or programs.
*       The ADA Legacy Bus Tour at:

A couple books to give good background are: 

*        A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen, 2012
*        What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement by Fred Pelka, 2012.

An important step in making a good exhibit is figuring out what you can do to make the pictures and text available to those of us who cannot see. Perhaps you could record a description of your exhibit and hand them an mp3 player with the recording on it. Then we can celebrate together how far we've come toward realizing the idea of accessibility behind the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Written by:
Katherine Schneider, Ph.D.
Senior Psychologist, Emerita
Counseling Service
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Author of Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities and a children's book Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold  and the kathiecomments blog.