By Guest Blogger Andrew J. Imparato, Executive Director, Association of University Centers on Disabilities
This month, as we reflect on 25 years of implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is easy to focus on the letter of the law and miss the larger message of this historic legislation. For me, the greatest value of the ADA has been its role in framing disability as a natural part of the human experience and branding discrimination against children and adults with disabilities as something that is unlawful, unnatural and unnecessary.
In July of 1990, I was a brand-new lawyer trying to cope with the early stages of bipolar disorder, a condition that has stayed with me to this day. Earlier that year, as a newlywed and a visiting student at Harvard Law School, I had experienced my first serious episode of depression. Seemingly overnight, I went from being a confident, outspoken law student to an insecure, scared, unmotivated shell of my former self. With help from my wife, Betsy, and others, I made it through law school and launched a career in public interest law.
I soon found my calling as a disability advocate and I learned to think of my disability as a positive differentiator; it gave me added credibility and gravitas in my chosen profession. I was proud to be a person with a psychiatric disability who was “out” as a professional and I felt welcomed by my colleagues with a variety of disabilities in Massachusetts and beyond.