Celebrating the ADA

Today, we celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being signed into law. The ADA is landmark civil rights legislation that resulted from the intense and selfless activism of individuals and groups including the National MS Society who fought for their right to receive equal treatment and access. Because of their activism, today, the rights of people with disabilities are protected in several areas including education, employment, public services such as public transportation, public accommodations (restaurants, hotels and retail stores) and telecommunications. Since the ADA’s passage, great strides have been taken to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and to allow them to more fully participate in and contribute to mainstream society.

Even before I was diagnosed with MS in 1987, I personally witnessed others benefit from this statute. Prior to the ADA, in my role as a health center professor and teacher at the University of Florida, I saw how difficult it was for “students” with disabilities to mainstream in medical training. After the passage of the ADA, other faculty members and I developed teaching and diagnostic aids to help students work hard to complete their dreams of becoming health professionals. We used translators and transcribers; we developed augmented stethoscopes and other diagnostic aids; and our school upgraded buildings to make them physically accessible with ramps, automatic doors and elevators. In 1986, when I started experiencing symptoms of MS (fatigue, numbness and motor deficiencies), I was able to continue my work as health center professor, teacher and researcher due to accommodations made by my University.

When I partially retired in 2006, I followed my wife and her career to the Washington, D.C., area. It was an ideal choice because of all the great work that had been done locally to enforce the ADA and provide accessibility. Early activists in the area lobbied federal and state agencies and legislatures and protested against inaccessible entities, leading to accommodations that today, permit me and many others with disabilities to have a better quality of life and be productive members of the community.
Using those activists as inspiration, I am proud to call myself an MS activist who participates in the Society’s Virginia Government Relations Committee. I get to work with other MS activists to help Virginia legislators as well as federal law makers understand the needs of the disability community. We visit our local representatives at their homes and also visit their offices in Richmond and on Capitol Hill.

For the last five years, I have been a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Accessibility Advisory Committee. We are a group of people with disabilities from the jurisdictions served by the WMATA--Maryland, D.C., and Virginia--who work with WMATA staff to advise the WMATA Board on issues that directly impact the elderly and disability ridership. We have been successfully involved in making the D.C. metropolitan area bus/rail system more accessible through input on the design of the new 7000 Series Rail cars which will join the fleet in 2014. We have also been active in improving lighting, signage, elevator availability and full implementation of “bumpy domes” (tactile strips) which help guide people who are blind or visually impaired at all rail stations. As new metro lines are developed, we will monitor their development and accessibility as well as new fare gates and fare media. We are working with WMATA and their jurisdictions to improve bus stop accessibility and have been instrumental in transitioning to new contractors for MetroAccess paratransit.

Through my role on WMATA’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, I see that though we have come a long way in making public transportation accessible, there is still work to be done to ensure that all people with disabilities have meaningful access to their communities and are able to live independent, full lives. On this anniversary of the ADA, I am thankful for the groundwork it has laid and am committed to continuing as an MS activist to ensure the ADA’s promise is fulfilled.
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Phil Posner, PhD

Phil is a retired health center professor. He started his career in Brooklyn and worked his way around academia from there to UCSF, Stanford, U. of Fla, Oxford, Auburn and FSU. He currently does part time consulting with Oak Ridge Associated Universities as well as the FDA, DOD and HHS. Phil and his wife live in Virginia where he volunteers with the local MS Society chapter and the regional transit system for accessibility.

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  • Lexi   Jul 26, 2013 1:27 PM
    What do you when your own family members ignore the illness. Yes, I am walking, but like most my legs hurt 24/7, migraines, tired. Yet, They think nothing of "take me here, take me there" I'm talking about immediate family members. My Father who I loved dearly wants to go to the cemetery everyday where my Mom was buried 5 years ago. My Doctor wrote a note saying she doesn't want me running more than 2-3 days. My Father saw it and said, wow you have a problem. I answered I don't you have a problem. That lasted a week.
  • Tena D.   Jul 26, 2013 1:38 PM
    You guys rule!
  • Stan R Nelson   Jul 26, 2013 1:40 PM
    back in 2005-6 I was fired from my job because of MS at that time my condition was not that noticeable I had requested help from you people and was told my case was not important enough and that you write the laws but we needed someone to enforce them I lost a 30000 a year job over this now I barely get by on disability,
  • Denise Fletcher   Jul 26, 2013 1:45 PM
    I want to still have a purpose. RN had to quit practice 2010 sudden onset Parkinsons. No available positions in my hospital. I am still able to be productive a few hours a week.
    Live in Tampa. Any ideas that at the same time would help your cause which is now mine.
  • Tina   Jul 26, 2013 2:39 PM
    Dear Mr.Posner,
    It is very refreshing to hear that you can still help with ADA-issues. I am also a health care professional who was diagnosed with ms in 1986. I worked as a RN and nurse educator until forced to retire by hardships of the ms. Thanks to you we can live better! May God give you strength for each day!!
  • Karon Borkowski   Jul 26, 2013 3:18 PM
    I have had MS for 36 years. In the last few years walking and stairs have
    become a real challenge. We live in a raised ranch-everything dealing
    with steps-and my husband who I am the caregiver for-uses a walker
    due to two strokes and maybe some small heart attacks. If he has to
    use the steps-I walk ahead or behind depending if its up or down.
    Needless to say life is no longer anything enjoyable. Any help is welcome-we are thinking of selling our house-it is too dangerous for both of us. Thanks for letting me vent.
  • Kathy Geiger   Jul 26, 2013 4:58 PM
    The ADA accommodations are few at best. I too has MS, PPMS, and I have observed, offices , restaurants, stores, bathrooms, etc., do not have sufficient access for a disabled person. Electric automatic door openers must be a mandatory tool to provide the disabled! Feel free to contact me, if you want additional information.
  • Joanne   Jul 26, 2013 5:44 PM
    I live in a low income community. I have ms, heart problems and a old heart attack. I would lile to know what I have to due to get a proper small ramp with rails made. My complex will not do a thing to help...they say they have done all they could which is 'NOTHING', I got a estimate from Elder Care for $1,200,00...which is rediculus...they will be charging me to dump my trash in our dumpster...I feel I am being taken advantage of....please help..
  • Joanne   Jul 26, 2013 5:45 PM
    I live in a low income community. I have ms, heart problems and a old heart attack. I would lile to know what I have to due to get a proper small ramp with rails made. My complex will not do a thing to help...they say they have done all they could which is 'NOTHING', I got a estimate from Elder Care for $1,200,00...which is rediculus...they will be charging me to dump my trash in our dumpster...I feel I am being taken advantage of....please help..
  • Avatar
    A_J_  Jul 26, 2013 6:18 PM
    Really appreciate all that the ADA has done...still people and places that need to be aware of the simple things that can be done to make mobility issues easier. Thank you.
  • Ross   Jul 26, 2013 11:22 PM
    I am happy that this law has created a passage for many of us with ms. I have personally been a victim to this however, even with this law. Texas state troopers would not allow me to join even after I passed all physical and mental test. It is apparent that even this law does not stop discrimination. I have been in law enforcement for four years now and have not needed any accommodation due to my MS. Too bad this law did not help me as much as I wanted to work for the State of Texas.
  • David Oser   Jul 27, 2013 5:44 AM
    Also an MS sufferer...the problem I have with the ADA is that it only affects companies or firms with 15 employees or more. I work for a firm with 10 employees...there is no relief for me under ADA
  • Kimberly Lorance   Jul 28, 2013 2:51 PM
    Love this story. Thank you for sharing. I am a nurse and deal with my MS on a daily basis. I am 52 years old and had to give up full-time work. Just spent four days in the hospital with exascerbation. Glad to connect with this site.
  • Kees Kuijken-NL   Jul 29, 2013 8:37 AM
    Dear Phil,

    You are doing a good job!
    We are 5 volunteers (retired; outdoor recreation and nature conservation) in Holland and we listen what problems you MS patients and all other disabilities have; we advice State Forest Service and other Nature areas organisations about accessibility (and behaviour); have a public Handbook on our website "nature without borders "
    (in Dutch only) www.natuurzonderdrempels.nl
  • peter j. tomasello   Aug 3, 2013 6:49 AM
    The work your doing is really good, the hand rails and ramps at rail stations, help. Never though I would them . MS 1990, had to retire 2001 couldn't do job anymore pain too much. Wanted to work till 65 to get full pension, could not. My job was railroad Engineer, my MS may have been work related. Cant think of how I got it ,better to think how best to live with it. Thanks for your work.
  • Benita Ward   Aug 7, 2013 9:34 AM
    My name is Benita Ward and I was diagnosed with MS in 2000..I recently learned ,I also have arthritis in my neck and left knee.. Two weeks later I had a bad exacerbation which is still happening now..I'm writing because Social Security has taken my benefits and I've Appealed it ..Do you know a Lawyer that can help me..I'm in Dayton,Ohio..Thank You
  • Gregory   Aug 17, 2013 5:58 PM
    I have a ramp to install at my home I own the home but not the land in the park I live
    n the park wont le me install it is that rite or legal
  • Karen   Sep 18, 2013 11:46 AM
    Great information Phil and you are so right that we have come a long way but certainly cannot rest on our laurels; I am sure your friend and mine Doris would be so happy and proud of you.