As we are in the midst of the holiday season, I thought it would be a good time to share what the holidays mean to me. To me, the holiday season is a reminder to value what we have and to be kind to one another. Ideally, we do these things year-round, but the holiday season brings us back to that center of kindness if we have deviated. There can be a lot of stress associated with gearing up for holiday celebrations with shopping, travel, and weather. We shouldn’t let stress make us lose sight of the sense of goodwill towards one another that the holidays help us focus on. If you live near people, you live in a community. Every member of a community deserves basic human respect, which is the basis of the principles of the ADA.
The other day, I saw an adult screaming at her mother in at Trader Joe’s because she needed to rehearse 5 lines for a play. Literally screaming. I wanted to leave the store at that moment. That kind of negative energy bothers me so much I can’t be anywhere near it. Never mind that she would treat her mom that way at all, but to do that in a public space showed even less respect.
While it’s important to work toward maintaining composure during times of high stress, managing expectations is a great tool to avoid emotions ramping up so high in the first place. Think about the last time you got angry. Was it a case where something did not happen in a way you expected? If you had expected a different outcome, would you have been so frustrated? I’m not advocating living with low expectations, but to make sure expectations are realistic.
Sometimes our callers have unrealistic expectations about the ADA or the services we can provide. This can lead callers to frustration and even anger. Before calling us, there are some things people should be aware of, so they don’t anticipate a result we’re unable to deliver. If callers keep these things in mind, expectations will be managed and technical assistance interactions more pleasant for everyone.
- We are experts on the ADA, and only the ADA. The ADA is not a universal accessibility law. The ADA ensures equal opportunity in society, specifically in employment, state & local government, areas of businesses that the general public is welcome, and telecommunications. The ADA does not apply to things outside of those four categories. For example, most multi-family or private housing is not addressed by the ADA, rather, the Fair Housing Act. If you need information about the Fair Housing Act we will refer you to an expert on that law. Please don't be frustrated by this. Realize that we are here to help you in any way we can, but we cannot be all things to all people. Asking us about an issue with snow removal at your town house community is like asking your dentist about a dark mole on your arm. Even though the dentist is a healthcare professional, they will tell you to speak with a specialist. If you come to us with a problem outside of our scope of expertise, we must refer you to the specialist you are seeking.
- As an information center, the RMADAC can only give information and referrals. Per our Federal grant requirements, we cannot cross those boundaries. We do not enforce, mediate, intervene, or make decisions on complaints.
- We empathize that navigating different laws and advocating for oneself can be frustrating. The ADA Center will let you know your rights and responsibilities when the ADA does apply. We might not know where you can get a service animal, but we can connect you to your local independent living center, who likely does. We will do our best to help you or to at least put you in touch with the best resources you may be seeking.
- We can’t change the law. If you are not happy with how the ADA or any other law functions, write to your member(s) of congress. Congress makes these laws and they should know your opinions. If you think your community deserves more local attention on accessibility, contact your City Council or State Congress. Laws are created or amended by these people and they have the power to make changes and solve problems.
My advice when things are frustrating is to be calm, breathe deeply, and remember to remain centered. Above all, be kind. If we all focus on kindness, we can drown out negativity and remember that we are all in this together and we are a community where everyone deserves basic respect.