Independence Center marks 25th anniversary of ADA

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The Independence Center drew a crowd at its luncheon. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • The Independence Center drew a crowd at its luncheon.

The Independence Center, a local independent living center that offers 14 programs for people with disabilities, held a luncheon yesterday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One of the big announcements: both the city and county governments are "recommitting" themselves to fulfilling the promises of the ADA on its 25th anniversary. Largely, that means making it easier for people with a disability to traverse streets and sidewalks and to access buildings, particularly public ones. 

The luncheon, which packed the grand ballroom of the Hotel Eleganté, was a first for the nonprofit Independence Center. Dr. Patricia Yeager, CEO of the Independence Center, handed out awards to the county, city, the advocacy group ACT (Accessible Communities Today), the First Congregational Church (which recently installed an elevator for disabled parishioners), and Discount Tires on Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard (which responded to a complaint about being inaccessible by fixing the problem in three weeks).

The star of the show, however, was keynote speaker Richard Devylder, a retired government worker from California. Devylder was born without limbs and was rejected by his family, who believed his disability was repayment for sins. Raised in foster care, Devylder beat the odds and ended up advocating for disability rights. 

A video showed in detail how Devylder gets through his days — often with the help of technology he or friends have created. He has learned to brush his teeth and shave his face on his own. He even devised a tool that helps him remove and put on his pants when he needs to use the restroom. 

Devlyder drew applause from the audience by saying, "It's not that we need new laws; it's that we need to enforce the laws that exist."

He noted that when looking for a home, he had to rule out three condos because the sidewalks around them weren't accessible. And that impacts more than just people who use wheelchairs, he noted. Moms with strollers, and elderly people who have difficulty navigating stairs also benefit from ramps. 

Finally, Devlyder said that it was time for governments to get rid of "disability advisory groups." People with disabilities, he said, need to be integrated into the government. In his own community, he says, that means that there's not a group advising the planning commission on how to accommodate people with disabilities. There are people with disabilities on the planning commission.

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