Although the ADA made our country more accessible to persons with disabilities and removed barriers to education and employment, increased expectations and changing technology and jobs require new solutions. How could—and should—the civil rights of people with disabilities in the United States and throughout the world evolve in the next 25 years? Drake students of the ADA Generation consider the possibilities.
Senator Harkin: In this year of the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, the millennials, the most diverse generation in American history, are projected to surpass the baby boomers as the largest segment of the nation’s population. A group of that size will have the capacity to change the way American’s live and work. So, I sat down with 11 millennials; students at Drake University, who are part of the ADA generation. Some of these students have a disability, some do not. I asked these young adults to consider the next 25 years, and what lies ahead for persons with disabilities in 2040.
ZACH: As Senator Harkin can probably attest, the ADA in the 1990’s looks a lot different than ADA now.
MICHELLE: Since we’re the first generation with it, I think that we’re the first people to have the ability to view ourselves as no different than the other person on the street.
Senator Harkin: Exactly right.
MICHELLE: And then, by 2040, we’ll be mentors to other people.
ZACH: These are people who have so many great talents, so many great triumphs, so many great failures, because we all fail and we all triumph.
Senator Harkin: What do we do to make sure that by 2040, we break down all these stigmas and these attitudes? We’ve got to start breaking these stigmas down.
ZACH: Well, if we start to change the way we interact with people with disabilities, people are going to catch on, people are going to follow suit and that’s what we need to see. People tend to focus so much on what they can’t do or how they’re different that they forget about what they can do.
EMILY: Stereotypes are broken down through experiences. And so, when you talk about trying to have a more integrated workforce where people with disabilities are working in the same environments as people who don’t have disabilities, that’s where those experiences are created and that’s where stigmas start to end.
MICHELLE: Once the idea of normal has been thrown far into the ocean and people realize that you may have a disability, yes, and it could be physical, it could be emotional, it could be mental, but you see the world differently.
NADIA: What I think about versus what, you know, someone in a wheelchair thinks about versus, you know, someone who’s blind thinks about is completely different, but, a lot of those perspectives can help shape one another.
MICHELLE: And that, it’s an asset.
EMILY: So, I think when you look forward to 2040, you say I know people with disabilities can work, you know, 10 times as hard to battle obstacles that other people don’t face and that I might not face. But we shouldn’t expect them to have to do that to be as successful as someone who doesn’t face those challenges.
AZWIRAH: By 2040, we will, you know, have equality, not only in states, but also like you said globally, and in Malaysia too.
ZACH: I want people with disabilities to know that they can live happy lives and feel important and successful and accomplish many great things if they just believe it.
Senator Harkin: Keep the conversation going at #ADA2040. Let’s make sure that people with disabilities in 2040 have equal access and opportunities in their workplaces, and in their communities.
There are millions of members of the ADA Generation. Help us tap into their wealth of experiences and ideas by launching a worldwide conversation at #ADA2040. Together we can do more to ensure people with disabilities in 2040 have equal access and opportunities in their workplaces and in their communities. But we need your voice.
Join the conversation today. #ADA2040