First-person essay by Catherine Getchell
“Catherine Getchell and her guide dog in her backyard in Squirrel Hill. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)”
“I was 9 years old when the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] was passed in July 1990. It did not have an immediate impact on my life because, as a totally blind child, I already had access to a ‘free and appropriate’ public K-12 education through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was passed before the ADA, in 1973. But in 1998 when I went away to college, I counted on the ADA to allow me access to accommodations like exams in Braille and permission to have my brand-new guide dog come to class with me.
“Because of the ADA, and probably a whole lot of luck, I have never had difficulty getting or keeping a job. But one barrier that a future amendment to the ADA could address is accessibility to the digital world.
“Employers are increasingly aware of their obligations related to the ADA and, slowly but surely, the benefits of employing people with disabilities.
“We tend to be loyal, hardworking employees who perform at least as well as our peers. And in 99% of cases, if we need any accommodations at work at all, they are minimal and low cost. Agencies such as the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, where I worked for 12 wonderful years, can help employers cover the cost of accommodations and provide technical assistance to help an employee with a disability be successful on the job.”