The ADA celebrates its 25th anniversary this year

It has been 25 years since the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. It is a landmark piece of legislation that protects the civil rights of people with a disability, approximately three million of which live right here in the Lone Star State.

Lex Frieden is one of those people. He was a major influence in the drafting and passing of the ADA, but his advocacy started long before that. Paralyzed in a car accident in 1967, he has been living in a wheelchair for nearly five decades. In an interview with The Texas Tribune, he talked about how the world was a different place when he suffered his injuries.

In 1967 wheelchair access seemed like a foreign concept to property developers across the nation. “There was no dignity whatsoever when it came to trying to use public facilities,” he said. He helped change all that with organized events that forced the public and government officials to see disabilities.

One of the public events highlighted the need for wheelchair access in the public transit system. Frieden recalled the day he had about 50 volunteers show up at a bus stop. “People got out of their wheelchairs and started dragging themselves literally onto the bus,” he shared. He said the group continued the practice “for years until the metropolitan transit agreed to buy all accessible vehicles.”

Frieden has helped changed the public perception of disability. Raising awareness brings change that can help make life easier, but it doesn’t eliminate disability. Many Texans are unable to work because of serious conditions and impairments. Social Security disability benefits provide monetary assistance to help cover the financial costs they incur on a daily basis.