Guest blog from Elana Rosen-Kinn, YWCA Lancaster team member and disability rights activist
Let’s talk about disabilities and laws!
Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) laws and how to advocate was key to understanding more about where challenges here in Lancaster are and stem from. In our recent Listen Learn & Lead session, “ADA Laws and Advocacy: What Can We Do?”, we joined together to discuss the ADA laws in depth to understand what each Title means, how it shows up in our everyday lives, and how to advocate for more accessible spaces in our community.
The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life. Here’s a quick rundown of what each Title covers:
Title 1 refers to employers and the obligations employers and religious organizations with more than 15 employees have to accommodate individuals with disabilities. It also discusses what employers can and cannot do.
Title 2 relates to all state and local governments. It requires all programs, activities, and services to be completely accessible or an alternative solution must be found, and also refers to requirements for transportation that any public transportation including Amtrak must have accessibility.
Title 3 covers private business that provide public accommodations such as testing facilities, factories, doctor offices, zoos, funeral homes, warehouses, and other private companies. They are required to ensure that everyone is included and there is no segregation. Also, buildings must be accessible so long as it does not inhibit health and safety. Testing facilities must have accessibility or provide alternate location.
Title 4 relates to relay services and other communication aspects. It requires telephone and television to have relay and closed captioning. It also mandates for TTY or TDD services.
Title 5 covers miscellaneous provisions.
Advocating for Accessibility
Like all groups, the disability community is not a monolith, and while advocacy is needed, the approach should be tailored to each individual’s needs. To get us started, we looked at a few different disabilities and discussed to dos and donts for working with them, as well as some general norms for how to approach disability advocacy, such as:
- Never assume, always ask if they need or want help
- Do not talk down to an individual
- Be inclusive, include them in the conversation
- Be patient
- Always remain calm
- Talk in a clear, concise manner using simple speech
We then took a deeper dive into specific disabilities, and looked at how to advocate for the deaf/ hard of hearing, seizures, and cognitive/ intellectual delay, and mental health.
We also had some general advocacy that is good for all individuals with disabilities. We concluded with how do we advocate in our cities and states.
It was an awesome time with people asking questions and sharing thoughts. Overall conclusions were that Lancaster, and the state of Pennsylvania, can do a better job of providing inclusion and equality for people with disabilities, and our community can help lead that movement together.