Richard Thornburgh: We Still Haven't Reached the Promised Land

With the stroke of a pen it was done, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Eight-year-old Malik Glean of Conyers takes a shot during practice at the weekly wheelchair basketball game Wednesday at the Johnson Park Recreation Center. Glean and other residents with mobility limitations learn basic wheelchair basketball skills and play games against other teams in the area. The wheelchair basketball is organized through the county’s ASPIRE (All Special People Involved in Recreational Experiences) program offers activities for people with disabilities. For more information on programs, to be added to the mailing list of upcoming events or to volunteer, call Tom McPike, therapeutic recreation director, at 770-278-7249 or e-mail tom.mcpike@rockdalecounty.org.

With the stroke of a pen it was done, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

You've seen the results. Curb cuts and ramps, wider doors, parking spaces, and Braille on elevators and ATMs for the blind.

Is that Enough? Former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh who helped push the ADA through says 'no'.

"I am gratified, but impatient,” says Thornburgh. “Gratified that we've expressed in a formal way through legislative action the importance of the civil rights of people with disabilities and their rights to participate in the mainstream of our lives without being discriminated against and disappointed in a way because we haven't reached the promised land yet."

By promised land Thornburgh means economic opportunity for the disabled, so people like Ryan Cole can compete on a level playing field.

Ryan represents the second generation of the ADA.

"Ryan was diagnosed when I was about 18 weeks pregnant with dandy walker mal formation which is a brain malformation which affects the cerebellum, and in his case, he is missing a portion of his cerebellum," says Andrea Cole, Ryan’s mother.

“Ryan has had two brain surgeries,” said Ryan’s father, Eric Cole. “Abdominal surgeries for the g-tube, hernia surgeries, he's had seizures' that have been brought under control, and he's had some mobility issues.”

Ryan's parents want their son to grow up to be self-sufficient. Advocates say society can do its part to make that happen.

"I think one of our challenges as we move into the next decade is how can we create more economic opportunities so that more people with disabilities are working, more people are in the middle class, own their own homes and are able to participate in the mainstream of the economy," said Andrew Imparato, American Association of People with Disabilities.

“I think individuals with disabilities and what everybody wants is they want a hand up not a hand out,” says Eric Cole. “I think there are many stereotypes that we battle today and derogatory terms that we need to get away from and understand that people like Ryan have hopes and dreams just like the rest of us.”


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