FORT WAYNE — July 26 marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 — the world’s first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities. Signed by former President George H. W. Bush, the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in a variety of areas, including employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications.

“The ADA is significant and unique being that it’s the only civil rights law that requires people to treat one another differently, instead of the same”, says Ashley Caveda, who has quadriplegia as the result of a car accident that paralyzed her and her brother 20 years ago.

This is something that Fort Wayne has historically struggled with i.e. Braille menus, wheelchair accessibility, and sloped sidewalk corners.  More often than not, people don’t know how to assist individuals with disabilities, ironically treating them the same as everyone else.  However, most of the time common courtesy is often the biggest assistance and help.

“The ADA was signed into law almost exactly one month after I was paralyzed in a car accident, and because of this, when I have had to face intolerance or injustice, the ADA has protected me and given me recourse”, expressed Caveda, a graduate of Northrop High School.  “This past year, I took a class in disability studies, and I learned about the Ugly Laws (, which made it illegal for people with “unsightly or disgusting” disabilities to appear in public and which existed in major US cities until the 1970s.  Just knowing that as little as 40 years ago discrimination against people with disabilities was not only legal, but was actually enforced by the law is horrifying.”

“Though life for a person with a disability still often means combating ignorance and honing advocacy skills, at least now the battle is against individuals, and not the system as a whole.  I feel very privileged to have had the freedom and opportunities that wouldn’t have been afforded to me if the ADA had never been passed”, Caveda says.

This historic anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act provides an opportunity for disability stakeholders to weigh in on how well our community has implemented and improved upon the civil rights legislation.  As a result, the Northeast Indiana Disability Advocacy Coalition (NIDAC) is grading the City of Fort Wayne and surrounding counties on being a disability friendly region and will reveal the results of the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Survey  on the steps of the Federal Building on Monday, July 26th, 2010, at 10am.

Everyone is welcome, and encouraged to let their voice be heard by responding to a series of questions about Northeast Indiana’s implementation of the guidelines established by the ADA, and to help the NIDAC determine what has already been accomplished and what barriers still remain to full community inclusion.  Surveys can be downloaded by logging on to :  Please answer the questions with traditional letter grades (A through F) and return it by July 16th to [email protected], or mail to
Fifth Freedom
  4606-C East State Blvd  Suite 102  Fort Wayne, IN  46815.

The Northeast Indiana Disability Advocacy Coalition is made up of eleven organizations: Autism Community Together, Anthony Wayne Services, Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Indiana, Easter Seals Arc, Fifth Freedom, Goodwill Industries, League for the Blind and Disabled, Northeast Indiana Autism Support Group, Passages, Pathfinder Services, and Turnstone.

For more information call Tony Belton, Public Relations Coordinator, at 260.469.2777

Easter Seals Arc of Northeast Indiana’s mission is to create solutions that change lives of children and adults with disabilities or other special needs and their families.  We provide a wide range of excellent services that nurture independence based on each individual’s goals and choices while providing advocacy and promoting community inclusion.