American Disabilities Act Day

July 13 was American Disabilities Act Day across the USA, and I learned new stuff about myself and my oldest child. I’m an epileptic and my oldest child has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), which is a high functioning form of Autism.

PDD isn’t such a mysterious disease anymore. In fact, Asperger’s disease is more mysterious than PDD. PDD is almost like being an epileptic. Some people think of it as a CNS disorder like epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease.

People have been discovering more information on the different levels of autism that children and adults suffer from. I learned that there’s a New England Epilepsy Foundation that can help me understand my problems and control them.

I was at the Boston City Hall enjoying myself on what some considered to be the hottest day in Hell. I had fun volunteering to help at the event and learning things from all the organizations at City Hall that day. I learned that the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Science actually give discounts to individuals and families who show their food stamp cards at the entrance of the museums. I forget what days and times this is offered, so call them first before you go.

I learned about a group of people who are connected to the Boston Independent Living Center. This group calls itself ADAPT. Believe you me, they’re fighters for a small band of people who are wheelchair bound and blind. Don’t think of the wheelchair as a hindrance in these people’s lives because it’s not. It can be a challenge from time to time to get public transportation when you need it, but that’s not much of a problem for many of the people who I met.

ADAPT’s leader is a real firecracker, and she brings out the best in everybody around her. She told me that the reason many of them showed up was for the ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the Government Center T station. The City Hall officials put in a new ramp for people to use so they could get in and out of the T station easily and go to City Hall.

I wish I could say I saw the ribbon being cut, but I didn’t because I decided to join my new friends for a trip to the statehouse. It was fun learning about a bill currently going through the house, which people want to become a law in Massachusetts. ADAPT is fighting for the rights of everybody with a disability to be treated equally and fairly. Because of them and the other organizations that showed up for the event, the MBTA is going to roll out buses in the future that are wheelchair and stroller friendly for MBTA riders.

People have been fighting long and hard for buses that are wider and easier for disabled people to use. A prototype of the bus was at ADA Day so that people could get a little air conditioning in the extremely hot sun. I believe, on that day, it was in the 90s.

As the event was winding down, I picked up information from people who were teaching us about being deaf and blind. Did you know that if you take any book and put it into Braille that the book becomes bigger and lengthier than people would consider to be a normal-sized book. Most books are on CD because it’s easier to carry a CD as opposed to carrying Moby Dick around with you and having it become two to five times bigger, longer and heavier than a paperback or hardcover book.

When it comes to being deaf, people are coming up with new types of communication devices for them to use and new types of hearing aids to help them, which they can start using in childhood. I learned about the mayor’s council on aging and disabilities. They’re working with people to make positive changes in Massachusetts for all disabled individuals. I picked up information about services that are available to people who have some form of mental illness ranging from mild (depression) to medium (bipolar or schizoaffective disorder) to severe (manic depression, schizophrenia, etc.).

People who suffer from mental illness are getting services through different agencies such as the Erich Lindemann Center, the Center House Club, the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the May Center and several other agencies. All the agencies are working with people to get them whatever services they need, whether housing, mental health medications or health care at one of the local hospitals or addiction services. They are there to help anybody who is diagnosed with a mental health disorder. I learned that the Department of Conservation and Recreation are making all the national and local parks more disabled friendly.

In fact, this department is the reason we have more people with disabilities who ride bikes in the marathon, go canoeing and sailing and do so many other things that we might not imagine a disabled person can do. The DCR have been making paths wider for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. They are responsible for helping people come up with a way for people to go sledding and tobogganing and to do things like going biking. Different companies, like the two I saw at the event, work with people to discuss ideas.

I also saw a bicycle built for people who can peddle and steer with their arms and an interesting-looking device that helps disabled people to go snowboarding around the world in any season. The device looked like a one-man toboggan that you lie flat on. It wasn’t much bigger than a pair of skies lying side by side or a very small canoe. No matter how you look at it, when it comes to being disabled, the limits society sets for disabled people are no longer relevant to them. We’re making the regulations and standards, and disabled people are writing the rules about what’s acceptable in society and what isn’t.

Beatrice Bell is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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