After 3 months in a wheelchair, I conceived the following call to defeat the ADA Education and Reform Act. Pass it on to your lawmakers and see what happens.

Dear Members of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate,

The defeat the ADA Education and Reform Act is my only 2018 New Year’s Resolution. Though I’ve never been much for resolutions in the past, this one took root after spending the final 3 months of 2017 in a manual wheelchair and a boot because of a broken foot. During those 3 months as a patron of automatic doors and handicapped accessible facilities, my understanding of what the Americans with Disabilities Act has and hasn’t accomplished changed. The most troubling reality revealed was how difficult it is for someone with disabilities who is determined to remain an independent and contributing member of society to do so.

I’m also very troubled by how difficult it is to discover the current status of the ADA Education and Reform Act. An internet search found this October 2027 op ed piece by Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth in which she explained why she’s opposed to the bill.

“The bill would allow businesses to wait until they are notified of their failure to meet legal obligations before they even have to start removing barriers that prevent Americans with disabilities from leading independent lives.

This offensive legislation would segregate the disability community, making it the only protected class under civil rights law that must rely on “education” — rather than strong enforcement — to guarantee access to public spaces.”

She also quotes the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Rights Task Force and other civil rights organizations opposed to the bill.

“We know of no other law that outlaws discrimination but permits entities to discriminate with impunity until victims experience that discrimination and educate the entities perpetrating it about their obligations not to discriminate.”

Tammy Duckworth is a disabled veteran with firsthand knowledge of the challenges and obstacles faced by people with disabilities. Her opposition to a bill that makes people with disabilities responsible for overcoming disability discrimination is understandable.

Equally understandable, dear lawmakers, is your lack of firsthand knowledge about these barriers. Until breaking my foot on October 1, 2017 and becoming best friends with a manual wheelchair, I lacked firsthand knowledge, too. But 3 months of wheelchair experience became my best teacher and led to my New Year’s resolution to defeat the ADA Education and Reform Act.

To make this resolution a reality, I’m asking every member of Congress and the Senate to spend 3 months in a manual wheelchair before moving this misguided bill forward.

No cheating is allowed during those 3 months. No walking of any kind, though hopping on 1 foot from the wheelchair to the toilet or the car is permissible. But, like people with disabilities, you are restricted to the handicapped modifications available where you live, work, and play. You are also expected to remain as independent as possible–no fair being a drain on society–seeking the assistance of others only when you really need it and when they are willing to grant it.

At the end of the 3 months, read through the ADA Education and Reform Act again. If you can vote for it in good conscience, go right ahead. But I don’t think you will. Because once you’ve spent 3 months in a wheelchair, your perspective will change.

Because of your experience, you’ll identify remaining barriers to be eliminated instead of only those already removed. You’ll have experienced the extra work a disabled person does to remain independent. And you’ll know that if the ADA Education and Reform Act passes into law, it will be detrimental to you when your body grows old and fails–when you need a wheelchair or a walker or a scooter or a prosthetic device, not for 3 months, but for the rest of your life. You’ll realize that by voting for this ill-conceived bill, you are voting against yourself. Do you really want to do something like that?

Sincerely yours,
Jolene Philo
Daughter of a disable father
Mother of a son with special needs
Member of the human race who will one day, God willing, have age-related special needs

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