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Thirty-two years after President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, thousands still don’t have equal access | Social Views

Patriot-News - 7/27/2022

When the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany made a high-level visit to Harrisburg earlier this year, it exposed a glaring deficiency in our region’s transportation resources. The chief of his political department couldn’t book a limousine or even a taxi that was wheelchair accessible.

Dignitaries from one of the world’s most powerful nations traveled to Harrisburg to cement business and political ties, and they found our facilities to accommodate people with disabilities were clearly lacking, 32 years after President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure their equal access.

It’s understandable they never imagined a major American city would not be able to meet the transportation needs of someone with a physical disability. But that was the case in Central Pennsylvania.

The visit could have been a complete failure if Vini Portzline had not turned into a superhero and rushed to the rescue.

As president of the board of the Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILPA), Portzline knows first-hand how hard it is for people with disabilities to find suitable transportation in our region. So, she made her personal van available to ensure the official could get to his meetings.

Portzline is a strong advocate for people with disabilities and is a member of PennLive’s Editorial Board. She says it took years of protests and advocacy to get the ADA passed, but things are far from where they need to be. Barriers still exist in housing, in the design of sidewalks and streets and in transportation.

That’s why CILCP has been spending the month celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the People with Disabilities Act with a tour of our region to raise awareness about the issues that still deny equality to thousands of people. CILCP has organized a celebration tour, parking its “mobile office” van at different spots in our region for the past month, with the next stop slated for Northern Dauphin County Human Services office from 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.July 29.

There is reason to celebrate. The ADA did help change attitudes toward people with disabilities, granting the right to demand what many take for granted – hailing a taxi or booking a limo that will accommodate their needs. It was supposed to guarantee to people with disabilities equal access to public accommodations, employment, government services, telecommunications, and transportation.

Our failing to provide this full guarantee is a threat to us all. Portzline rightly points out anyone at any time can be faced with a disability, whether from an accident or illness. And the lucky among us grow old and eventually need physical accommodation to continue to enjoy life.

Portzline and her CILCP colleagues are calling on lawmakers, businesses, and those in the transportation industry to do more to consider the needs of people with disabilities. They should not be an afterthought in how we design our cities, roads, bridges, workplaces homes and infrastructure.

In Central Pennsylvania, we should never again be in the embarrassing position of clamoring to find transportation for a distinguished international visitor who just happened to be in a wheelchair.

Joyce M. Davis is PennLive’s Outreach & Opinion Editor. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @byjoycedavis.

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