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ADA turns 20, but barriers still exist

July 26, 2010 7:54:06 PM PDT
Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the American With Disabilities Act. The landmark federal law led to reducing barriers and eliminating discrimination in the workplace, but advocates say there is still much more to be done.

Jim Engvall has lived in a wheel chair all his life. As a boy, growing up in San Bruno, he was pretty much confined to his home.

"Schools were not opened to me like they are now," said Engvall.

In 1990, then President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"It has transformed the landscape in the removal of architectural barriers. Some would say it's made the world flat. And by doing that, it's made disable people far more visible," says Sid Wolinsky with Disability Rights Advocates.

One year later, in September 1991, San Mateo County established its own commission on disabilities. Today there are 140,000 people in the county living with disabilities.

San Mateo County celebrated the 20th anniversary of the act by holding a fair displaying all the services available to people with disabilities. For example all 200 Samtrans buses will eventually be low to the floor with special accommodations inside.

"The front and side-facing seats do lift up when a wheelchair needs it. The wheelchair pulls in and there is a four-point securement,"

But there are still a few barriers left. Not every sidewalk in the Bay Area is up to compliance.

"So this requires me to work really push as hard as I can," says a man as he demonstrates how he struggles to push up a sidewalk ramp.

Advocates say the next 20 years should also focus on helping people with disabilities be more self sufficient.

"We try to do transition forums to help them to get into the workforce and to help them deal with life," says Gerda Cohn from the commission on disabilities


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