The Making Of A Young Advocate

The Making Of A Young Advocate

As my nine-year-old daughter Sarah and I walked to church recently, she asked me point blank, “Why don’t you and Daddy like Donald Trump?”

The question stopped me in my tracks. Oh, let me count the ways, child, let me count the ways!

But I wanted to give her a very concrete answer she could relate to, and something that wouldn’t keep her awake at night with scary thoughts.

“Well, here’s one reason,” I told her. “There’s a law called the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. It passed when I was nineteen. Part of that law is why you see braille on elevators and bathrooms, buttons for opening the doors at the library and the rec center, beepers on light poles so we can cross streets, curb cuts like the one we just used so people in wheelchairs can get on the sidewalks–those kinds of things. That law, among others, makes it so guide dogs like Anlyn can go everywhere with us. It helps disabled people ride buses with lifts and recordings that call out stops automatically–remember those?”

“Yeah. Those recordings on the buses are cool.” Sarah reached down and scratched Anlyn’s ears as we paused before crossing our next street.

“Donald Trump and some of the people who support him in Washington want to take apart the ADA.”

“They better not!” Sarah froze and turned to face me, horror in her tone–the same horror that had been in her voice when she saw our future President making fun of a disabled reporter on TV; back then she had put her little hands on her hips and declared, “Mommy! He needs to be in time-out!”

“They’re working on a new law that would take parts out of the ADA.”

“What can I do?” my daughter asked as we started walking again. “I’m living my little life doing nothing, and Mr. Dumb Face is going to ruin everything for a lot of people. Especially you.”

“We’re fighting back. And calling him Mr. Dumb Face isn’t the best way to express your anger.”

“Well, it’s true.”

I couldn’t really argue with that.

“Why can’t kids fight back? I could go on Facebook or something. Who could resist my cute little face?”

“I don’t want you going online. But let’s think about it and come up with some ideas.”

Sarah decided to write to her Congressman since I told her HR620, the bill poised to take the first chop at the ADA, will soon be debated on the floor of the House of Representatives. I didn’t push my daughter. Given her usual attitude about homework, I thought her fervor might fade in a day or two. But two nights later, she proudly showed me the following letter:

A Young Advocate’s Letter To Congress: 

Dear Mr. Congressman,

Hello. I am Sarah. My mom is blind. I am 9 years old and I am in the 4th grade. My mom comes and pics me up from school so this is why I think you should keep the ADA.

I think you should not get rid of the ADA because what if a blind person was at the airport and they were in the elevator and they hit the wrong button because there was no braille and they missed there flight.

I also think you should keep the beepers on the light poles because what if he/she was at the light and thought it was safe and it was not and he/she gets hit. That would be bad and people texting and walking will also get hit and not only will the streets be safe to all most anyone it will also ruin the population and that is bad for the earth.

Maby if you get rid of the ADA def or blind people might get off at the wrong stop on buses or get hurt.

ADA helps my mom bring her gidedog into places.

By getting rid of the ADA, you could ruin the entire population. Don’t do it.

Thank you,

Sarah S.

A Mother’s Reflections:

Young Advocate
PD: A little girl on a tricycle holding a megaphone rides on a brick road.

The proofreader in me cringed for a second, and then the mom won out. I gave my daughter a big hug. I’d never felt more proud of her.

I decided to leave every word of the letter intact, errors and all, on Sarah’s behalf. Congressmen need to hear what kids think. And as her dad pointed out, once the ADA is attacked, it may erode very quickly to a loss of resources such as bus access and curb cuts.

On a side note, HR620 is not aimed at removing beepers from light poles and braille from elevators, so I will send a companion letter, detailing my own reasons for concern:

HR620, if passed, will put the burden of action and proof on people with disabilities to make their cases against inaccessible businesses. When a violation occurs, a disabled person will have to first notify the business, then wait up to sixty days for a response, then wait up to an additional 180 days for the situation to be rectified, before legal action can be taken. Supporters say businesses need more time to comply with burdensome ADA requirements—I guess twenty-seven years hasn’t been long enough. What can we expect from an administration headed by a President whose real estate properties have failed to comply with the ADA time and time again?

Stipulations like this have never been put into any other civil rights law, so people with disabilities will be asked to wait for their basic access rights in a way that no other group has ever been made to do—and when you weaken one civil rights law, the precedent is set to weaken others.

On a second side note, I’ll have to send my letters by snail mail, since the contact form on the Web site of the Congressman where I live is inaccessible to the blind. Gotta love graphics and visual security measures with no audio alternatives.

Editor’s Note: Read more from Jo Pinto on Blind Motherhood, and check out her book, The Bright Side of Darkness, available on Amazon.com. 

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