Personal Story

Impact Feature Issue on the ADA and People with Intellectual Developmental, and Other Disabilities

Why We Still Need the ADA


Nathan Perry may be reached at or 612/624-2008.

For Nathan Perry, an Information Technology Specialist at the Institute on Community Integration, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been an important advocate. In this February 2015 interview he talks about that advocacy. Video clips of Nathan discussing the ADA are at Self-Advocacy Online.

Q: What difference has the ADA made in your life?

A: I have had some experience with the ADA and employment, with it helping me have a job. Since the ADA was enacted, it now makes it discriminatory to not hire somebody who has a disability if they’re otherwise qualified. I’ve had places where I’ve worked where they were much more open to working with somebody who has a disability because of the ADA. I haven’t run into anybody that blatantly refused to hire me because of my disability, but because the ADA is there they’re much more open to trying to work with people with disabilities.

Q: Do you think it opened up some job opportunities for you that might not have been open before?

A: Yes. One of the things that I’ve used is a job coach. I still use a job coach to this day. If it wasn’t for the ADA it would’ve been much harder to use a job coach in a work setting. So I’m really grateful for the ADA and that aspect of it. I’m also glad that I have rights so that if I do run into any kind of issues or discrimination there are steps I can follow to remedy it.

Also another thing that’s happened with the ADA is that we have Disability Services here on campus and I know people – staff and students – who use Disability Services. If we hadn’t had the ADA in place I’m not sure we’d have the kind of services we have here today to provide supports if they need supports in the classroom and in the workforce area. For instance, they provide for a friend of mine who works here a headset so she can talk on the phone without holding the receiver. That wouldn’t have been provided if the ADA hadn’t been there.

One thing that I’m thrilled about is that this is the ADA’s 25th anniversary and it’s still going strong and hasn’t fizzled out, and there hasn’t been anything that’s dismantled it. It’s survived and continued to be a really strong advocate for people with disabilities. A lot of people wouldn’t be in the positions they’re in now if it hadn’t been for the ADA. People with disabilities working in professional jobs, actually getting out in the community and not staying home all the time, being able to get funding for providers to train their staff to provide supports to people who need supports such as PCAs.

Q: Do you think the ADA is an important safety net for people?

A: It is a nice safety net. I will always try to do stuff on my own, and a lot of other people will, too. But it’s nice to know it’s there in case you need help, in case you run into some sort of roadblock, so you can get something done. It’s nice to have something that’s a law so if there is some discriminatory action going on or something’s not in compliance with ADA regulations, there’s something that people can actually go to and use to right the situation.

Q: It is 25 years since it passed. Do you think it’s still important?

A: I think it gets more important as time goes on. We have a lot of people who are aging in the community who need supports who have never needed them before. Without the ADA, back in the day when people got older and needed supports, the only supports they had were nursing homes, and now they have assisted living communities, or they can have people modify their houses so they can live independently in their houses. People that are getting older are going to need to move into ADA-compliant homes, ADA-compliant assisting living and nursing homes, and the ADA will be there to make sure they have the stuff that they need to live in that environment. So as far as I see, with each year that goes by it gets more important, and it gets broader as far as the supports that are provided. Everybody recognizes the ADA now and that it’s a good thing. They know that it’s not just going to be temporary, but is here for the long haul.

Q: What’s your experience with how familiar people are with the ADA?

A: Most people that I interact with who have disabilities pretty much know what the ADA is because they have disabilities and they’ve lived it, and they have people in their lives who know how the ADA works. The more interesting question would be whether people without disabilities know what the ADA is. That would be where people would not necessarily know enough. They’ve heard about the ADA, but don’t necessarily know what it is. In my experience when you mention ADA, they’re really curious about what it is, and they want to know about it and how they can better provide supports.

Q: Is there anything else you want to say about the ADA and its importance?

A: I think the ADA is a critical infrastructure for people with disabilities and I think it’ll be here for the long haul, and will continue to grow, and will continue to advocate for people with disabilities.