ADA Anniversary — ‘People With Disabilities Deserve to Be Seen, Heard, Known and Understood’

Oklahoma City — Dozens of people gathered at the Oklahoma State Capitol to celebrate the Thirty-third Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act.

State Representative Ellyn Hefner, the mother of a son with a disability, has championed better care, services and inclusions for Oklahomans with disabilities through several pieces of legislation she authored this year.

At the ADA celebration on Wednesday, July 26, Hefner said, “We come together to celebrate what the ADA means for so many ‎people with disabilities ‎who deserve to be seen, ‎deserve to be heard, ‎deserve to be known and understood.”

The Oklahoma City Democrat said, “This law requires accessibility and bans discrimination in almost all private businesses and has significantly reduced discrimination in state and local government services.”

Self-advocate and public speaker Lindsey Spoon shared her triumphs and also shared her struggles.

“The ADA has improved my life dramatically. It’s allowed me to live in my community. It’s allowed me to work in my community and it’s allowed me to enjoy my community. However, as much as I enjoy these provisions, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in serving Oklahomans and national people with disabilities,” Spoon said.

Spoon discussed her recent challenges with voting at her county precinct.

Spoon, who is among 9 percent of disabled Oklahomans who have mobility issues, uses assistive technology including a headset so the ballot can be read to her and a dial box that is connected to the voting machine that scans and records the ballots.

The ADA provides her the right to vote independently and privately. The assistive technology gave her the ability to vote, however, she had no privacy.

She requested a private space to vote with fewer distractions. Her request was quickly granted.

“Most people don’t even realize there is a problem until you raise your voice and say something.” Spoon said.

A video of Hefner’s ADA Capitol press conference can be viewed here:v

This year, Rep. Hefner authored House Bill 2718 which would create the Oklahoma’s Promise Opportunity Scholarship to provide scholarships to students attending qualified post-secondary programs designed to support students with intellectual disabilities.

“Today’s celebration is also a time for us to recognize the work of advocates ‎and know that when we put up the fight, ‎we DO see progress. ‎So today we celebrate these victories that have been achieved, ‎but we also recommit ourselves to what we have yet ‎to do in this continuous fight for disability rights. ‎The ADA Anniversary is also a time to reflect ‎and remember ‎that nothing we gain will ever ‎be permanent if we are not vigilant,” Rep. Hefner concluded.

NOTE: Pat McGuigan of prepared this story for posting, adapting it from a press release distributed by the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. Founded in 2009, is an independent, non-partisan and locally-managed news service based in Oklahoma City.