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Arizona disability advocates celebrate ADA’s 29th anniversary

(Photo courtesy Ability360)

PHOENIX — Friday marks the 29th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act and local advocates are celebrating.

Phoenix based disability advocacy group Ability360 normally celebrates with the ADA with a small party each year. However, this year, they tossed aside the cake and candles and upgraded to a digital celebration.

Loren Worthington, Vice President of Communication and Marketing for Ability 360, said they’ve been highlighting all positive impacts the ADA has made by using the hashtag #ThanksToTheADA. He said this serves as a reminder of how far the state and the country has come in terms of accessibility.

“Speaking for myself, I’ve had a disability for the last 35 years, so much has changed in Phoenix, and across the country, of course, with respect to have curb cuts, that not only do people with disabilities enjoy but so does everyone who has a stroller or a big cooler,” Worthington said. “Having public transportation that we get to enjoy, lifts and ramps and things that make it so we can independently get around, that’s been a big change that I’ve seen over the last 29 years in Phoenix.”

He said that prior to the ADA, accessibility requests were commonly met with resistance and rejection but now basic accessibility has become mostly commonplace.

“For example, lifts that allow us to get in and out of pools,” Worthington said. “When we fought for the right to have pool lifts at hotels and anywhere that was a public pool, that was met with resistance. Now it’s become commonplace that everybody can book a room at a hotel and know, ‘bring your swimsuit,’ because we are going to have access to the pools.”

Ability360 also created a short video series highlighting disability advocates and organizations that strive to make their facilities not only accessible but enjoyable.

Some of the more notable features include Arizona State University’s Peter Fischer, the university’s Accessibility Compliance Coordinator. He was a student at ASU when the ADA first became law.

In the video series, he said that over the past few decades since the ADA was passed, the campus has upgraded from just curbs and ramps.

“Now there are open plazas for everyone to use equally,” he said.

Arizona’s pro sports teams are also no slouch when it come to making baseball and basketball accessible for all.

Nanette Odell is the ADA Coordinator and Disability Services Manager for the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks. Even prior to the upcoming multi-million dollar renovation, Talking Stick Resort Arena has made small adjustments to make their arena more accessible.

For example, Odell said they modified the suites to allow for more comfortable accommodations and expanded private bathrooms to make wheelchair transfers easier.

The videos featured other state entities and disability advocates who explained the impact of the nearly three decades old legislation.

Worthington summed up the impact in just one word: independence.

“What the ADA has done is make it so that we have the ability to express what we want accomplish, how we want to be independent and know that the federal government has some laws in place that we can use to then enforce what we are trying to accomplish.”

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