WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — It’s been 30 years since former President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law.
It was the United States’ first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities.
Local advocates said the nation has come a long way, but there’s still room for improvement.
As a senior at Midwestern State University, automatic handicap doors are a saving grace for Kimberly Ramirez’s daughter Emily, who has minor cerebral palsy.
“Schools that don’t have automatic doors, the struggles of a girl in a walker and just in a power chair, how do you get into a heavy door,” Kimberly Ramirez said.
Emily pushed for these doors at her high school in Abilene and was successful.
“A lot of people in the community, they’re not aware that children have trouble getting into their school, a lot of children with disabilities face different struggles and Emily was trying to get into her school and have independence,” Ramirez said.
Emily now hopes the same outcome will happen in the Wichita Falls Independent School District where not all high schools have the handicap doors.
After meeting with WFISD school board president Elizabeth Yeager, Ramirez hopes this is something that can be included in the future school bond.
“It would be great if they can allocate some funds to put some more automatic handicap doors in those schools,” Ramirez said.
Superintendent Michael Kuhrt said in a statement that equal access for all students is a priority.
Over the past two years, the district has been listening to the community, meeting with architects and working with our Board of Trustees to develop a long-range facility plan. Every campus has been looked at, and a plan has been developed for each school. Equal access for all students in our district has been one of our top priorities when looking at any new or repurposed facility in the plan. With the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaching, WFISD celebrates and recognizes the progress that has been made by reaffirming the principles of equality and inclusion. Our desire is to continue to make strides in this area in order to accommodate the needs of all students.WFISD Superintendent Michael Kuhrt
While accessibility has increased, it is still lacking as Anthony Watkins with The Arc of Wichita County found out for himself when helping people with disabilities look for a job.
“When I go into a place of employment, all employees they can’t really say no we don’t really hire people with disabilities so that’s discrimination, so they’ll say ‘no, we hire,’ but I rarely get a callback,” Watkins said.
Watkins adds some employers often look at what people with disabilities can’t do rather than what they bring to the table.
“They’re not doing it for the money, they’re not asking for raises, they have pride in work, they go to work and they want to, they wouldn’t miss work for anything and this is, I would say, a large population of the people with disabilities,” Watkins said.
Now it’s a look to how the community can work to improve even more in the next 30 years.