ADA Anniversary Rally Highlights Struggle for Disabled

Cincinnatians marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with a pride march July 27 designed to underscore the many issues that disabled Cincinnatians still face.

Cincinnatians marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with a pride march July 27 designed to underscore the many issues that disabled Cincinnatians still face. 

The half-mile march started outside City Hall and ended at a festival at Fountain Square. The crowded square was packed with signs, walkers, wheelchairs and guide dogs. Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Councilman Kevin Flynn were among the notable speakers at the event. Both hailed the ADA, which the federal government passed in 1990, but said that there is still work to be done.

The law protects from discrimination people who suffer from physical or mental challenges that stand in the way of major life activities.

The ADA’s influence has spread beyond the United States. Oidov Vaanchig of Mongolia came as part of a group of people funded by the Department of State from 22 countries to study the implementation of the act across the country and to bring his findings back home.  

“The ADA was a catalyst for many national laws in different countries,” he said. “You think about copying or using it for a basis for national laws in your country.” 

But even 25 years after President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law, people with disabilities still face problems. Many historical buildings in Cincinnati are still difficult, if not impossible, for those in wheelchairs to access, for example, and some with disabilities face barriers to employment and housing.  

Bureau of Labor statistics from 2014 show that only 17 percent of the working-age disabled population in the United States is employed, in contrast with about 65 percent of the non-disabled working-age population. About 51 million Americans are disabled, according to the U.S. Census, including 1.5 million in Ohio, representing 13 percent of the state’s population.

“We’re still fighting every day to see it really enacted in every aspect of our culture and our city and our economy,” Cranley said. “We’ve come a long way. But we have a long way to go.” 

Flynn has publicly acknowledged that he still faces many struggles from being in a wheelchair and has advocated for more to be done. 

“Twenty-five years is long enough,” he said. “Let’s get going.”

The event at Fountain Square was centered on getting rid of negative stereotypes and stigmas associated with the disabled community, said Kat Lyons, co-chair of the event and advocacy coordinator at the Center for Independent Living Options. The gay rights movement inspired their strategy.

“Having a pride march helps to change the stereotypes that people have in their head about a person or a disability or a sexual preference,” she said. 

She said this movement is slowly gaining speed across the country. 

“You know how Cincinnati is 20 years behind every other city?” said Lyons. “We’re actually keeping pace with New York City this year because they had their first disability pride parade this year.”

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