25th anniversary of ADA

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the Carlson Theater held a celebration for the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Passed in 1990 by the U.S. Congress, the ADA was put in place as a way to prohibit discrimination based on the disability of any given person, similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was later amended in 2008 by redefining and broadening the definition of disability and then passed into law.

Director of the Disability Resource Center Susan Gjolmesli explained that title two of the ADA is the most relevant to Bellevue College, for it concerns students and their accommodations for classroom access and curriculum. On top of that, she said, “it also means accessibility and technology by the way of websites, application processes for employment.” She also noted that the ADA discusses public accommodations, transportation, communication and reparations.

Student DRC staff Fox Cooper discusses with the panel.
Student DRC staff Fox Cooper discusses with the panel.

While the passing of ADA is a celebrated event, Assistant Director of the DRC AJ Duxbury believes that people still need to push for change, as the ADA is not the “end-all-be-all” of discrimination against the disabled community.

Colin Donovan, disability specialist for the DRC, said there have been “Decades of systematic inequality experienced by people with disabilities in American society.” Donovan also stated that while the ADA is completely necessary for protecting people with disabilities, “the work to truly include and integrate people with disabilities into our campus and communities at large is largely about cultural and attitudinal changes, not legal ones.” Colin noted that even though discrimination is not allowed by law, it still exists and happens to people all the time. For disabled people specifically, there exists a very high unemployment rate due to employer discrimination. These rates are similar to those that existed 25 years ago when the ADA was passed.

To celebrate the anniversary, Bellevue College is incorporating the PRIDE award, which will be given out monthly, and recognized annually. Duxbury explained that PRIDE stands for Promoting Radical Inclusion of Disabilities in Education. Donovan played a big part in choosing who won the award, and explained that she nominated faculty on campus who promoted larger systemic and institutional change. Duxbury believes radical change focuses at the root of ableism, which is “systemic and historical and can’t be solved in a meaningful way just by focusing on individual interactions.”

Ableism is the higher valuing of nondisabled peoples over disabled peoples for any given reason.

This year, the nine awards were given to Seema Bahl in the Sociology department, Joyce Carroll, the Associate Dean of Instruction, Deanne Eschbach, an adviser, Yoshiko Harden, the Vice President for Equity and Pluralism, Donna Miguel and Karrin Peterson from the English department, Michael Reese, Associate Director of the Center for Career Connections, Roshni Tewari from the Biology department and Andria Villines from the Mathematics department.