More than 30 years ago this month, history was made with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communication and access to state and local government services.
While still not nationally recognized, the month of July has been celebrated as Disability Pride Month in major cities across the country. AmeriDisability describes Disability Pride as “accepting and honoring each person’s uniqueness and seeing it as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity” and connects it to the larger movement for disability justice.
In San Antonio, disABILITYsa has emerged as a catalyst promoting the considerations, inclusion and contributions of youth and adults with disabilities in a broad spectrum of arenas including housing, transportation, healthcare, education, employment and socialization. With unwavering dedication, disABILITYsa has made a positive impact on countless lives of individuals and families.
The advocacy nonprofit is challenging stereotypes and dispelling misconceptions by reframing the way we think about disability through educational initiatives, events and outreach programs. By increasing awareness, we can foster understanding and support for people with disabilities, ultimately paving the way for a more inclusive community. We work to ensure that the disability community is seen for the talents, abilities and contributions they bring to the table, rather than being defined by disabilities.
Our organization also fosters collaboration and partnerships within the community. bringing together individuals, organizations, businesses and government agencies to create a network of support that encourages collective action toward disability inclusion. This collaborative approach enhances the effectiveness of their work and creates a more cohesive and supportive community for the disability community in San Antonio.
Notably, the ADA has played a significant role in removing physical barriers leading to a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities. However, there is much work left to do in order to create equitable access for people with disabilities – disABILITYsa’s programs challenge the social and attitudinal barriers that still exist today.
Disability inclusion lies at the core of these principles. Creating accessible environments and implementing universal design principles are key to ensuring that individuals with disabilities can fully participate in society. Accessibility encompasses not only physical infrastructure but also information and communication technologies, transportation, attitudes and societal norms.
Making sure that voices of people with disabilities are heard loud and clear is really important in disability advocacy and disABILITYsa prioritizes opinions and ideas of people with disabilities and ensures they are heard and respected. By amplifying their voices, we help our disability community have a say in decisions that affect their lives by providing the necessary tools, resources and support to engage in advocacy.
Additionally, staff and volunteers amplify the disability voice on a larger scale, influencing policy changes and promoting systemic reforms. By working collectively, advocates can bring about positive change, breaking down barriers and transforming society into an inclusive and equitable space for all.
As we commemorate the 33rd anniversary of ADA, it is crucial to recognize the significance of disability advocacy, awareness and inclusion. These principles serve as the foundation for building a society that values and respects diversity and ensures equitable opportunities for all. Let us continue our efforts to create a more inclusive world that embraces and celebrates the abilities and contributions of every individual.
With organizations like disABILITYsa leading the way, we can work together towards a brighter and more inclusive future. For more information on how you can get involved, visit https://www.disabilitysa.org/advance.
Melanie Cawthon is Co-Founder and Executive Director of disABILITYsa, a member of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA) initiative.