Accessibility: Still A Long Way To Go



Even though it’s been 29 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed under President George H.W. Bush, not much has changed in the way of accessibility, or how disabled people are viewed when doing an everyday act such as seeking any kind of employment. If buildings were built prior to the 1990 signing of the ADA, business owners are NOT required to make them accessible in any way, shape or form. This obstacle is a nuisance and hindrance to those who use mobility devices, and one which business and building owners tend to overlook. While I am able to cite multiple examples, this proved most true when I started to look for my own apartment in 2014.

While Self Direction helps with costs of living independently, it was up to me, as it should be, to find my own apartment. Thinking my family would always be at my apartment, the one thing I wanted when my Self Direction plan was launched was to get away from my family and a town I disliked. I was attending college at the time so I wanted to be closer to school. I found an apartment I loved but it was not meant to be.

Most of the apartments I looked at were housed in pre-ADA buildings with a step or two leading up to them, and being in a power wheelchair, that would not be feasible for me. I needed a ground level apartment with ideally, an open floor plan. When my family showed concern that I was moving “too far” away, I found what I needed in the same town as them and have been living independently (with morning and night support staff) since January 5, 2017.

Accessibility has been an obstacle to me in finding gainful employment. While I am grateful for the job I have, I would like to work in my chosen field. (I have a Bachelors degree in Music). When looking for perspective employment, either the building is inaccessible or I get passed over solely because I am in a wheelchair. Employers do not look at my qualification but rather my wheelchair. What I have learned in the 19 years of being a part of the disabled community is that the able-bodied community does not cater to us and we need to “blaze our own trails.” We are human beings, we are not our mobility devices, and do not deserve to be treated as such. See us for what we CAN do, not what we CAN’T.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I still feel like a second-class citizen in what is now 2019. There’s still a long way to go in fixing and improving the ADA and as someone I look up to says, for people in wheelchairs, “it’s all about the ramps, ‘bout the ramps, NO STAIRS!”

Melissa's Journey


Melissa Jackowski
Latest posts by Melissa Jackowski (see all)