July 26, 2020 will mark 30 years since the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, civil rights legislation that aimed to increase access and opportunities for people with disabilities across communities and through employment.
Advocates say a lot of progress has been made but there’s more work to be done.
"I think it’s really important that we think about everyone. Not just one specific group of people, but all people. Our goal is all the same. We want to feel welcome, we want to feel included and we want to feel equal,” explained Beth Wagmeister, ADA Advocate and Inclusion Specialist of d/Deaf.
Wagmeister consults and guides businesses and community groups to becoming more inclusive.
"It’s been 30 years, yay! But it’s been 30 years and we’re still so behind with everything with equality and inclusion for all people. So we just want to raise awareness about maybe what can you do, what can you start to think about in terms of your business, your mindset, your family needs, etcetera. the list his endless,” she explained.
Wagmeister says one way to start is by recognizing you don’t know what other people are experiencing, and that many disabilities are invisible to strangers.
"What about people who have anxiety. We mentioned a little bit before. You don’t know that until you’re in a situation where you can’t breathe or they’re panicked or maybe we have a child that’s high on the autism spectrum. High functioning. You don’t know until somebody tells you or there’s a situation that happens maybe in a crowd which right now is limited, but under 'normal’ circumstances,” she said.
People across the nation have created face masks with clear panels so people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and those who rely on body language or reading lips, can communicate more easily.
Wagmeister says more can be done across municipalities and businesses, like providing American Sign Language interpreters during announcements where public safety is affected.