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The ADA Celebrates 25 Years, But Struggles With Accessibility Remain


The Americans with Disabilities Act is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Disability advocates say there’s still a long way to go in boosting access to jobs, technology, and buildings.

Dan Moore is the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Ability First. He says access to facilities is a constant challenge for people with disabilities and recounts the trouble businesses had when the ADA law was first put in place.

“Everybody perceived making our community and accommodations accessible was going to be incredibly expensive, and so, there was a lot of resistance that existed for many years that was economic based,” he said Thursday on WFSU's public affairs program, Perspectives.  “And that still is a challenge today.”  

Moore said newer businesses are being built with better accessibility for people with disabilities. But older buildings struggle to comply with the law.

But technology is helping make life easier. Adam Gaffney is the Management Information Systems manager at Florida Division of Blind Services. There are many choices in technology for people with disabilities to choose from. Gaffney says accessibility is built into many Apple products at no additional cost. He says there’s even a free screen reader for Windows Operating System.

“I think the whole idea of the technology is a design philosophy to build in principles that are universally accepted, universal access, and to build in accessibility from the beginning rather than retrofit. I think that’s a much more cost effective way to do it,” he said.

Technology, and its cost, concerns Tampa resident Sharie. She says her son, who was born blind and a former student at Florida State—uses a $4,700 keyboard for his cell phone.

“While there’s all this wonderful technology available, it’s also very, very expensive because there’s such a limited market for it,” she said. “So the research, you know, basically has to come back in terms of high price per customer. For example, he has a blue tooth keyboard that has a refresh-able Braille display for his iPhone. And I think that device was around $4,700.”

She says much of the technology available isn’t accessible for a majority of the population because of high prices.

Meanwhile, J.R. Harding, an advocate who works with Agency For Person with Disabilities, says there have been successes in the agency he’s a part of.

“I think the Agency For Persons With Disabilities have a full budget, full funding. We’re at $1.2 billion and with the governor’s leadership they were able to find a few extra million dollars to provide services for about 400 members of the wait list,” he said.

But the waiting list is far from empty. About 20,000 disabled Floridians remain on it.