It’s 25 years since the ADA became law, but students with disabilities are still navigating barriers to reach educational opportunities. Only 15 percent of high school graduates with disabilities attend a four-year college as compared to 37 percent of the general population. What changes are needed for full inclusion?
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.
TORI: When I had my brain injury in high school, I am now visually disabled, physically disabled and my hearing is impaired. My parents didn’t really have any idea what to do.
Senator Harkin: So you just didn’t feel that the information was there for your parents?
TORI: No, it really wasn’t. I did a lot on my own.
NADIA: When I came to college, I didn’t necessarily know that I had a disability. I knew that I was stressed more than the average person, I knew that I would get panic attacks very easily. So coming to college that all kind of flared up in and that all enhanced dramatically.
MICHELLE: I think that all high schools should offer, if not require, all students to take a life skills class, so they know how to deal with the stress that comes. So the stress does not develop into anxiety and panic attacks when it’s a little bit of stress and they’re not used to a little bit of stress.
DREW: There’s been some challenges that I didn’t think of and that surprised me. It’d just be nice to have someone to maybe, talk to, to tell you their experience. Like, here’s some things I didn’t think about. When it came to...
Senator Harkin: Mentors?
DREW: Yeah, mentors.
ANNIKA: It really helps to show a student in high school, okay, this is something I can do here is someone who has done it before in front of me and who can kind of help me along the way.
ZACH: We need to really help students to understand the challenges before they’re challenged, and understand how to overcome those challenges. Because the first year of college is a shell shock for people who don’t have disabilities. And if you do have a disability, it can beat the heck out of you.
EMILY: When talking about the low numbers of people with disabilities attending institutions of higher education, you get into the issue of what information is accessible. Someone looking to give this institution money to come there and learn have the right to know what’s offered to you, and that information is given for other things. Why don’t people with disabilities have the opportunity to know what specific services they will be given? Conversations like these are so valuable, especially as someone who wants to teach young people who have disabilities because, you know, I can never assume that I know what their needs are.
ZACH: Students with disabilities have to work twice as hard as average students just to get their degree. When I get out of here with my degree, God-willing, it’s going to be like the Medal of Honor. You know, I’m going to be so proud of 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