By KIMBERLEY A. LEE
Special to The Republican
Celebrate 25th anniversary of ADA!
On the Fourth of July, many of us helped America celebrate its 239th year of independence with lots of barbecues, baseball games and backyard get-togethers. Yet, there is another anniversary celebrating a different type of independence: access.
For example, people who may rely on a wheelchair, access to buildings, facilities and public transportation is crucial to the independence that enables them to enjoy life without having to limit their personal goals and expectations.
It is indeed significant that in 2015 we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Since 1990, the ADA has focused on improving access to places and services for people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, visual impairment or blindness, mental health, development disabilities, ADHD, and more.
In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that one in five people in America has a disability of some kind. Issues of access matter to tens of millions of people. People like Bo Tanner and Ben Eastman who both benefit from their access to CHD’s disability resources program.
CHD’s disability resources programs include opportunities for adults and children, including adaptive sports, which creates barrier-free recreational and competitive opportunities for people of all skill levels and age groups.
Adaptive sports activities run year-round and include cycling, bowling, sled hockey, golf, swimming, softball, wheelchair soccer, wheelchair basketball, dance, skiing, music and more.
Bo Tanner lives in Easthampton. She coaches swimming and rowing. She has competed herself four times in the Head of the Charles regatta. She completed a Century Ride (100 miles) hand cycling in the White Mountains. She plays defense on a co-ed sled hockey team.
“Hockey is my love,” she says. “It’s so physically demanding and athletic, and I’m an athlete. I only weigh 125 pounds, but I’m a defender. I’m not afraid; I just go for it. You’ve got to have that kind of attitude if you’re going to defend.”
Ben Eastman is a mechanic in Colrain, a community in Franklin County, up near the Vermont border. After he became disabled in a motor vehicle accident, Ben had to work through a lot of anger, but then he saw a movie that changed his world.
“It was a movie about quadriplegics who play full-contact rugby in wheelchairs. I saw it and wanted to get involved with that, full contact,” Ben says. “Sports have given me a place again where I’m equal. If I fail at something it’s not because of my disability, it’s because I wasn’t experienced enough or didn’t train enough. If I succeed, it’s because of what I can do.”
Sled hockey is also a way for Ben to play a game he loves with his daughter because it’s a rare game where the disabled and able bodied play on the same team. That means Ben can teach her skills and share his game insights on a level field – or a flat sheet of ice! Both are goaltenders on teams sponsored by CHD. Ben plays on the Knights (adults), and his daughter is on the Junior Knights (under 18).
“Just because you’re disabled, doesn’t mean you don’t have abilities,” says Bo. “It doesn’t mean you can’t do anything for yourself. I can do what I need to do for myself. Just give me access.”
And that is exactly what CHD’s disability resources program is all about. Ensuring access for all.