Tuesday marked the 26th anniversary of the day President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act
, the crowning achievement of a civil rights movement that is still in progress.
The Independence Center
held a luncheon to celebrate the anniversary at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Colorado Springs. Speakers highlighted the importance of public transit to those with disabilities and the larger community.
Keynote speaker Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, spoke at length about the struggle to make public buses accessible to those who use wheelchairs. Golden is an expert on the law, and was closely involved in its proposal and passage, as well as with the continuing battle to see it implemented.
Golden noted that before people with disabilities were protected by the law, a disability was seen as the responsibility of the person with the disability. It was only through direct action like sit-ins (including one that lasted 28 days) and people who use wheelchairs physically blocking buses (sometimes leading to arrest), that our current system came to be.
Golden pointed out that before buses became accessible, people with disabilities weren't just confined to the back of the bus, as African-Americans were before their own civil rights movement. A person who used a wheelchair couldn't even get on a bus.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers also took the stage at the luncheon. He outlined the millions of dollars that have been reinvested in the transit system since he took office, expanding routes and increasing frequency of buses on key routes. He also noted that the passage of 2C last year, which pumped more money into city road repairs, is also being spent on concrete repairs that improve access for people with disabilities. Because concrete must be in good shape to protect new roads, and because the ADA requires that roads and sidewalks be made accessible if roads are improved, 45 percent of 2C dollars go to concrete repairs, like sidewalks and ramps.
"Colorado Springs is making headway in our goal to make our city fully accessible," he told the crowd.
Suthers also handed out awards to bus drivers that were voted the best in their field by riders. The People's Choice Drivers' Award recipients were: Robert Bailey (Metro Mobility), Ricky Brooks (Mountain Metropolitan Transit), Charles Jennings (Mountain Metropolitan Transit), Gary Maestas (Mountain Metropolitan Transit), Wayne Peacock (Fountain Valley Senior Services), Ray Schwartz (Community Intersections), Melvin Smith (Amblicab), and Jack Souders (Silver Key Senior Services).