Tomorrow, July 26, marks the thirty-third anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a high schooler, I remember being transfixed in watching disability civil rights activists advocating for the law by engaging in the dramatic act of crawling up the steps of the United States Capitol to highlight the inaccessibility of our government at a time when the building had no wheelchair accessible entrances or exits, and the urgency to pass the ADA.
This landmark disability civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
The passage of the ADA enabled me to be more active and visible in the community. For example, wheelchair lifts in public buses have enabled me to get to and from work and serve the community—including through my work at EBHO today. The creation of wheelchair-accessible restrooms in restaurants lessened my chance of falling down while out to dinner with family or friends. These public accommodations and many more have opened up opportunities for people with other physical and sensory disabilities as well.
The ADA has made an enormous difference, but it has not eliminated all barriers and discrimination—there is still work to do.
At EBHO, we take an intersectional approach to our work, understanding that true housing justice also means disability justice and that as we widen the circle of community, all of us are stronger. Finding affordable and accessible housing is still a barrier for many people with disabilities—one that constrains both employment opportunities and independent community living.
I want to challenge the community to do as much as possible to meet the need for accessible homes. I hope we can continue to work together to creatively meet this challenge, for the good of us all.
Now, in recognition of Disability Pride Month, I invite you to read below for more stories and resources on housing and disability justice.
— Rev. Sophia DeWitt, Interim Co-Director
Resident Leader Spotlight: Cathy Eberhardt
Cathy Eberhardt is a 2018 EBHO Leadership Academy Alumna and an active member in our Resident Community Organizing Program and Oakland Committee. She is also a 2023 EBHO Housing Hero Honoree. Cathy lives with a disability and has dealt with homelessness in the past. Her own experience inspires her to fight for housing justice in every way that she can. She urges the community to challenge deep-rooted biases and embrace people with lived experience of homelessness, their ideas, and their power to affect change.
My disability is a mental disability, but I am doing nothing but thriving and making things happen, and advocating for affordable housing and for the homeless.— Cathy Eberhardt
Resources and Recommendations
📚📖 – Read
- EBHO Study Room: The Path to Housing Inequality – Housing Discrimination Against People with Disabilities
- Recognizing and Addressing Housing Insecurity for Disabled Renters – article about how people with disabilities continue to face higher rates of housing insecurity, and structural changes for a more accessible, affordable, and equitable housing system (Center for American Progress).
- When the ‘Capitol Crawl’ Dramatized the Need for Americans with Disabilities Act – how the 1990 protest demonstrated the barriers that inaccessible buildings create for people with disabilities (History).
🎥🍿 – Watch and Listen
- “It’s About More Than Ramps And Elevators” – NPR New York radio clip about aspects of accessibility that are too often overlooked.
- Fair Housing Rights for Californians with Disabilities – webinar hosted by the California Civil Rights Department.
♿️✊ – Culture, Community & Care
- History of the Disability Pride Flag – the Disability Pride flag is considered a collaborative design effort, having gone through updates to be more visually accessible. It is a symbol of solidarity, pride, and acceptance, with each colored stripe representing a different part of the community.
- Easterseals Disability Film Challenge – watch and support short films by artists and filmmakers with disabilities, created during the annual weekend-long filmmaking contest. The contest was originally launched in 2014 by actor and disability activist, Nic Novicki.
- 12 Ways to Celebrate Disability Pride Month (2023) – actions, events, and media to educate and celebrate during Disability Pride Month.