ADA 30

Five Ways Disability Leaders Can Honor and Further the ADA Legacy

Rebecca Brasfield
April 24, 2020

Becky Brasfield is a Member of Disability Lead and a mental health professional. Becky joined Disability Lead (then called ADA 25 Advancing Leadership) as an inaugural 2015 Institute Fellow, a competitively selected opportunity for emerging leaders from all walks of life and with diverse disabilities who unite for an immersive, transformative experience exploring their leadership skills. Brasfield has also assumed community leadership positions including Secretary of NAMI Illinois' Alliance of Peer Professionals; the People's Liberty Project; the International Association of Peer Specialists’ State Representatives Advisory Council; the State of Illinois Division of Mental Health Regional Recovery Trainings for Certified Recovery Support Specialists and Wellness Recovery Action Plan facilitators.

Thirty years after the passing of this landmark legislation, disability leaders can continue the legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act by advocating for its continued implementation and application as well as for additional legislation that empowers those with disabilities to live more integrated and meaningful lives. Here are some ways disability leaders can continue to further the ADA legacy:

1. Disability Leaders Focus On Adaptability

Disability leaders know that the contributions of people with disabilities are unlimited. An asset-based—rather than deficit-based—approach to disability focuses on the skills, talents, and innovations of the disability community. The disability community has exceptional qualities, including resilience and adaptability, which makes its members indispensable as contributors to society.

2. Disability Leaders Maximize Disability Resources

Disability leaders maximize disability resources by sharing resources within our community. This is an invaluable tool for advancing disability empowerment. The disability community has many areas of expertise, including information, technology, and equipment that aid in accessibility and improvement in quality of life. To make the best use of disability resources, the disability community can recycle and reuse this information by sharing these resources, further empowering the community.

3. Disability Leaders Embrace Support

Disability leaders are supported by mentorship and peer support. This has boosted the movement for decades in helpful ways. Both forms of support share resources and are forms of encouragement and guidance along a path of recovery to live more productive lives. In the spirit of support and empowering the disability community, both mentoring and peer support are used to aid individuals in reaching their goals. Simply put, we help each other. Both vertical and horizontal support create a sense of mutual assistance. Disability leaders shine a light on resources and abilities that the disability community can use to support and mentor one another.

4. Disability Leaders Build A Network Of Allies

Disability leaders collaborate with a coalition of allies to empower people with disabilities to live more integrated and independent lives. The disability community has always been assisted by a strong community of family members, friends, community members, healthcare professionals, volunteers, and business, faith, and civic leaders. The disability community is supported by individuals with and without disabilities who empower and further "nothing about us without us”.

5. Disability Leaders Promote Diversity

Disability leaders promote a wide range of diversity through inclusion and validation of diverse perspectives. We may grow comfortable and accustomed to being around people who are like us and agree with us, but disability leaders know that surrounding ourselves with people from different backgrounds and different perspectives make us more well-rounded and better informed. Disability leadership has always been diverse, spanning economic status, race, gender, sexuality, educational background, political views, and disability.

Disability leaders do much to ensure that the ADA protects the rights of those with disabilities nationwide. Supporting the next generation of disability leaders while expressing gratitude to existing leaders and allies is an example of how generations of the disability community continue to work together in striving for greater independence and empowerment.

This blog was published as part of our #ADA30 series—capturing Member reflections, insights, and experiences from our Disability Lead Members over the past 30 years and beyond. Send us your story ideas and we’ll share your reflections on our blog. Use the #ADA30 to join the conversation online.

ADA 30