In this blog post, two longtime GDB employees, Field Managers Chuck Farrugia and Charles Nathan, reflect on the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on the 30th anniversary of the defining legislation. With nearly 60 years of working in the guide dog industry combined, Chuck and Charles have a great understanding and appreciation for the importance of the ADA in the lives of GDB's alumni.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was created in July 1990, around the time we joined Guide Dogs for the Blind. The landmark civil rights legislation prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities and created a comprehensive framework for reasonable accommodations, including access to employment, housing, and transportation.
Guide Dogs for the Blind began service in 1942, intent on providing trained guide dogs for blind WWII veterans returning home to California. Soon afterward it provided service to blinded veterans in other parts of the country, and eventually to other qualified people motivated and able to travel independently with a guide dog. They quickly joined earlier guide dog users from other programs in reducing barriers to access through daily experiences and in ways large and small that eventually informed the ADA, including public accommodation, use of public transportation, and gaining recognition that their guides were service dogs and not pets, with respect to fair housing without penalty or restriction. In recent years the ADA has further defined the skills and purpose of specially trained service animals, particularly dogs, to the exclusion of fraudulent service animals that threaten the longstanding access rights and public goodwill of legitimate guide and service dog users.
In the last thirty years, the ADA has promoted momentous technological solutions that have given access to the environment for everyone and especially for people with visual impairment, including hands-free portable GPS technology, audible pedestrian signals, next stop announcements on buses, and a more uniform built environment. Street corners are accessible through tactile information in the form of truncated domes, and streets and intersections are increasingly safer.
Guide Dogs for the Blind has assisted consumer groups and worked directly with clients for mutual support and advocacy through the guidelines of the ADA. It has also worked with allied rehabilitation professionals to enhance independence and to reduce various barriers for guide dog users. Canada has recently passed its own national accessibility act, modeled to a significant degree on the ADA, and with the same aim.
The ADA has positively impacted guide dog users in immeasurable ways, and we are proud to continue supporting our clients through the guidelines defined by the ADA as they navigate a more inclusive world.
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