What We Do

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law on July 26, 1990. Adopting the ADA resulted from hundreds of thousands of hours of hard work by people with disabilities and their allies. It was people power that got us the ADA. People power will make sure it continues to improve lives.

Thousands and thousands of years of fear and misunderstanding leave a heap of discrimination for all of us to deal with. The ADA is needed to reinforce that the rights of people with disabilities are the same rights everyone else has: in the US Constitution, State Constitutions, and local government laws. In the wider world, we celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

USA Federal government sources tell us:

  • 26% of adults in the US (1 in 4) have a disability.
  • Over 24 million people have a severe disability.
  • 34 million people have a “functional limitation”, including both Visible and invisible disabilities.
  • People covered by the ADA include those with Lyme Disease, fibromyalgia, lupus, PTSD, and children with developmental disabilities. Millions more have long covid.

We were excited about the Americans with Disabilities Act spotlighting the importance of inclusion. The belief was that being part of the daily life of society would be much easier after 1990.

The reason for the ADA was then and it still is obvious to people with disabilities. Once the law kicked in by the early ’90’s many hoped the inclusion problem would be solved!! Unfortunately, that has not happened. It’s been 3 decades since the signing. The gap between the law and inclusion in society is still a chasm.

Inclusion means people with disabilities can’t be blocked from employment, education, housing, transportation, health care, housing, and the public square due to disability.

Inclusion means that persons with disabilities are part of society, have the right to enjoy all the benefits of society and have the right to be part of the work of maintaining a vibrant democracy.

Our History

We started small,. We started talking with restaurant managers, stressing the need for safe, comfortable access to the restaurant. One-on-one contacts yielded a few results.

There are many ways to spread the word about inclusion. Disabilities victimize people of all ages, all skin colors, all religious groups, all genders, all national origins, all people of poverty or of wealth, all occupations, etc. No matter how you look at it, everyone is vulnerable. We are all human. We are all susceptible to acquiring at least one disability in life. We all need the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Disability is a fact of life. It is a part of life. It is normal.

“Disability Justice” Awards to:

The current Disability Justice Award is honoring the Eau Claire Public Library. (A necessary aside is finding reliable manufacturers who can produce an award with accurate braille. Presenting the award has slowed by two months to get the braille right.)

We give awards to those governments and government entities that are doing a great job for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires publicly funded institutions to comply with this civil rights law.

Gateway Technical College received the first Disability Justice Award.

Wisconsin State Fair Park is the second recipient of the coveted award.

We are proud of these two institutions making good use of our tax dollars. We will continue promoting the continuing commitment to inclusion.

Filing Complaints with the US Dept of Justice

We can provide information about filing civil rights complaints. Right now, we are working on state and local government violations.

Milwaukee Area Technical College After a quarter century of ignoring the ADA-required accessible restrooms for students, staff, and the public, the Oak Creek campus now has them. The US Department of Education investigated the situation and approved the plan.

The City of Burlington Common Council voted to exempt a local business from an accessible restroom. Remarking, John Belejak, the City Attorney, advised the Common Council members they have the “right” to vote against a federal civil rights law.

The U.S. Constitution states the opposite. Every law school teaches the “Supremacy Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. That means no state, city, or village can pass something that attempts to override federal civil rights law. (- from documentation in letters, meeting agendas, and video recordings of Council meetings)

The State of Wisconsin grants “ADA exemptions” for at least one situation in the state building code. We do not know how many more “ADA exemptions” exist in state statutes. The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution applies to state governments. Why, how, when, and by whom, was this item slipped into the building code? No one knows. An Open Records request resulted in a statement that there are no relevant documents.

Both the City of Burlington and the State of Wisconsin were subjects of our civil rights complaints to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. The whole story stretches over more than 4 1/2 years and is not done yet.

Writing on behalf of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, Dan Hereth (currently the head of the Department) wrote that treating some people differently is fine. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed in 1954 by rejecting “separate but equal” treatment.

Writing letters/email

Informative letters were sent to every candidate for statewide office describing how to make certain the legislative website is accessible. A similar letter was sent to candidates about hiring people with disabilities.

Letters to the editor: State Assembly Representative Anderson was denied his civil rights by the Speaker of the Assembly. There are similarities to recent punishments voted on by state legislators in Montana and Tennessee.

Working with Government

Federal civil rights law — the ADA — requires that all governments and government entities comply with the law.

A transition plan for ADA improvements is required of every government. The transition lays out what the government entity will do first, next, and so on. Does your school or local county, city, village, or town have a plan?

Working with Legislators

We have pointed out the illegal section in Wisconsin’s building code by making legislators aware of the law as it applies to governments and governmental institutions (publicly funded institutions like libraries, schools, and museums). We fear there are more problems. No one reviews, changes, adds, or removes language and procedures for compliance with civil rights laws.

How do we fix this? How do we make inclusion part of everyday life?

We have federal civil rights law on our side. We need our state & local elected representatives to carry out the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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