Chicagoans with disabilities reflect on former President's Bush legacy

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Rahnee Patrick, director of independent living at Access Living, remembers the moment when then-President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

"It was really emotional for people to be able to witness that, 'Yes, we are recognized for human beings and that we deserve the rights that everybody has,'" said Patrick, who also has a disability.

Bridget Hayman, the director of communications at Access Living, was 11 when the ADA became law. She didn't know at the time the full impact it would have on her life.

"I think of the ADA every day when I leave for work. I use curb cuts, that are there because of the ADA, to get to an accessible bus stop. I take an accessible bus to work. And I am able to get into public buildings," she said.

As the technical assistance coordinator for the UIC Great Lakes ADA Center, Peter Berg provides guidance on ADA compliance. For Berg, who is blind, his work is personal.

"The ADA was the first piece of legislation around the world that guaranteed equality for people with disabilities, equality of opportunity," he said.

In a 1999 interview, Bush talked about why he supported the legislation.

"It was the fair and right thing to do. I think there are a lot of people who, if given access to the workplace, for example, can achieve things. But if they are denied that, they are denied a shot at the American dream," he said.

A lot has changed over the past 28 years for those living with disabilities, but the work isn't over.

"When it comes to actually including people with disabilities in all aspects of life, from employment to access to affordable housing, we still have a long way to go," Hayman said.
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