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An unexpected meeting
I only met Brad once, but the meeting, and he, left a lasting impression. I was at the gym in the middle of my workout, minding my own business. I saw him coming toward me down the hallway, accompanied by one of the personal trainers, along with a third person, a young woman in street clothes. He was in a wheelchair being pushed by his aid, the blond lady, and had significant trembling in his head and limbs. I watched without staring as he was assisted from the chair to a mat on the floor and was curious to see what rigors the trainer would put him through.
It became immediately apparent that Brad was not all that interested in his physical therapy. Almost upon contact with the mat, he asked my name, introduced himself and soon shared what certainly was one of the most significant and painful events of his life. He told me he had always been a bit of a hothead, was prone to acting on it and one night about five years earlier when he was in his early 20’s, after a few drinks, got into a bar fight with some random dude. He was caught off balance, and his head struck the ground.
Brad continued to chat happily about wanting to share his story so others wouldn’t act similarly, moved on to make a few jokes about this, that and the other thing, and—dare I say—even rolled out some pretty shameless flirting. The trainer and aid eventually coaxed Brad through all of his exercises then packed up and retreated back down the hallway. I had to laugh as I saw this young man stop along the way to chat up each and every female he encountered. As I said, shameless.
I couldn’t even tell you what my response was in hearing about Brad’s tragedy, but I do remember so clearly that he was absolutely matter-of-fact, almost upbeat in a way, if you can fathom it; I know I was floored. And humbled beyond words.
I realized in an instant I had made a ton of assumptions about Brad when I first laid eyes on him, jittering his way toward me. Yet I was presented with this bright, articulate, funny, thoroughly charming young man who kind of made my day and a lifetime impression in a few short minutes. It was an Aha moment, and I’m so happy we spoke.
The passing of ADA
I haven’t seen Brad since but found myself wondering about him this week as I read of the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) by President Bush in 1990. It has been called by some the single-most important piece of legislation protecting people with disabilities in this country and is meant to support their opportunity to participate in “major life activities,” such as going shopping at the mall, eating dinner out at a local restaurant or dropping some items off at the dry cleaners. Some of the law addresses anti-discrimination practices for employment, while a large portion provides the guidelines for improving physical barriers at a facility for accessibility.
The general consensus is that the passing of ADA has been monumental in improving the situations for many with disabilities. Sadly, there is also agreement that much more work is yet to be done. All these years later, for example, and many public or commercial buildings are still not compliant with even the basic requirements to ensure access. And that, to me, seems like the easier aspect to address—things like installing a ramp or widening an aisle—than getting knuckleheads like me to not make unfounded assumptions about someone’s abilities, physical or cognitive. Here is a guide for small businesses on ADA, one that I found to be more understandable and less legal mumbo-jumbo, in addition to our own guide to ADA specifications for wheelchair threshold ramps.
Becoming ADA compliant
I know I risk going a bit “commercial” at the expense of this exceptional person I met, Brad, and I don’t wish to cheapen the experience in any way. But if your facility has a need for ADA compliance, there are many simple, affordable options available for threshold ramps, landing ramps and modular wheelchair access ramp systems. So many years since the passing of ADA, it is truly time to take the those first few, simple steps to coming ADA compliance.