Today is the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and this week my middle daughter, Asiza (pronounced like Asia) turns 20. Asiza is solidly in the ADA generation. Her sister was born 6 days before the passage of the ADA, and Asiza was born 5 years and 6 days after its passage.
Asiza has a moderate intellectual disability, a communication disability, and some mental health disabilities related to trauma in her early years and her stay in foster care. When I first met Asiza, at age 10, I knew this young lady could go far. I remember sitting at my dining table with her social worker after Asiza’s first overnight visit, who asked me, “Do you really think Asiza will be able to live on her own?”
“Absolutely!” was my response. I knew this girl who had enthusiastically embraced new experiences, could reach for the stars. Today Asiza is able to live on her own because she embodies the ADA generation.
Asiza was able to be adopted into a loving family, after waiting over 1800 days in foster care, because our county did not discriminate against disabled parents, but rather recruited disabled parents to be foster and adoptive parents. Asiza biological sister was adopted by another family where the mom also has a neuromuscular disease. Both girls think having a mom who uses a wheelchair is perfectly normal. In this way, they embody the ADA generation.
All throughout her school career, Asiza was fully integrated with her peers in the classroom. In middle and high school Asiza was on the track team. She needed an aide to be with her at practices and meets. She got that aide due to the requirements of the ADA. As a result, she was fully integrated with her team. Asiza is able to take this level of integration for granted because she embodies the ADA generation.
Asiza expects justice around her. She is a sensitive woman, and gets upset when she sees people being mistreated. She is intensely loyal, and if she her mother or sisters experience discrimination, watch out! She is a fierce woman who does not tolerate injustice. In this way, she embodies the ADA generation.
Like her sister, Asiza spends several days a week at our local recreation center, participating in adaptive recreation programs, as well as included in fitness classes. She spends time with her friends doing the things other young adults do, eating out, going to movies, hanging out playing games, playing sports together, going to concerts, museums and shopping. She takes it for granted that she can do these things, and have the support necessary to do these things because she embodies the ADA generation.
Asiza lives in her own home, where she has freedom to watch the movie she wants to watch, eat the meal she wants to eat, and stay up late when she wishes. She has the freedom to play her music loud (so long as her roommate doesn’t complain). Cooks her own food with support, eating waffles 37 days in a row if she wishes. She makes shopping lists and shops for her own groceries and supplies. She has friends visit, she dances to her music, and has full control over the TV remote. She expects that she will be able to do these things because she embodies the ADA generation.
Most importantly, Asiza recently started her first non-volunteer job. She works as a housekeeper at a local assisted living facility. She is receiving the accommodations and supports necessary to work a competitive job at competitive wages. She will never be on SSI, and is able to maintain access to the supports she needs to live independently, and work, through Home and Community Based Services waiver, where she can earn up to 300% of the SSI amount before losing access to those supports. She expects to work, and be paid for her work because she embodies the ADA generation.
Asiza has gained the skills to be competitively employed with the assistance of many. She has had support from home to help her be as independent as possible. From the time she joined the family she had chores, and was pushed to be independent in self care. Her IEP at school has focused on helping her gain job skills from the time she entered middle school. Throughout her last two years of high school she spent part of her school day in on the job work experiences with the support of job coaches teaching work skills. In her first year post high school, she volunteered at a variety of jobs each day, honing her skills, and developing a work relationship with her to-be-employer. This is what embodies the ADA generation.
Happy Birthday Asiza, and Happy 25th ADA Anniversary!