July 26th marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. This is a law that was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
The act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on people living with disabilities, such as someone who has a physical or mental impairment.
“The most important thing is that people with disabilities need to understand is that the ADA is a civil rights law and it is not a social service program,” said Peter Berg, Chair of Mayor Pradel’s Advisory Commission on Disabilities in Naperville. “It does not establish certain programs or benefits for people with disabilities; it requires that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities to access the goods and services that are offered by the businesses in the city of Naperville.”
The city of Naperville has made a strong commitment implementing the ADA. Craig Goodland has seen the improvements that have helped him navigate around the city in his wheelchair.
“One of the things that has helped is the curb cuts, because if there was a curb I would have to look to see if it was too high and if it was high I would fall and then it would be a problem,” said Goodland.
“20 years ago it was about bricks and mortar, our efforts focused on curb cuts, ramps, and accessible parking,” said City of Naperville Accessibility Coordinator, Marita Manning. “Today our focus is making sure our services are accessible.”
The ADA’s impact has also helped improve special events such as Ribfest, Last Fling, and all the programs the city offers to the public. Naperville implements accessible viewing, parking, routes, and sign language interpreters.
The city is now using advances in technology to improve accessibility to city services. For example, 911-call centers utilize texting and internet systems to respond to calls from citizens with speech and hearing impairments.
“There are so many new technologies that deaf individuals use with the public and with each other,” said Berg. “They use video chats and texting, and those types of things will be a big impact in the coming years.”
Berg says he believes the city will continue to strive to be a place where all people are made to feel welcome.
“We want to make sure that everyone has access to the local government and to all of our parades,” said Manning. “We want to make sure we are all welcoming and inclusive for everybody of any ability.”
Mayor Pradel’s Advisory Commission meets once a month and citizens are encouraged to apply to join to help implement the ADA in Naperville.
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