Panelists step up the mic to celebrate ADA’s anniversary

Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 5:04 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -People with disabilities in Eau Claire are stepping up to the mic in honor of the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed making the world more accommodating for Americans with disabilities. 33 years later the UW-Eau Claire Foundation wanted to help remind the community of its importance.

“People don’t really understand that it was a civil rights legislation,” Writing the Disability Experience Panelist, Audrey Nelson said. “It was where people with disabilities no longer had to depend on charity or goodwill of communities to have things be more accessible, but it was our right to have things be accessible.”

One community member who understands the significance of the act firsthand is Dr. Katherine Schneider, who proposed a way to celebrate it.

“Instead of a proclamation I thought well, let’s organize a panel where people can hear from people with various disabilities about what their lives are really like,” Writing the Disability Experience Organizer, Dr. Katherine Schneider said.

From that, the Writing the Disability Experience panel and reception were born. An open event where community members can hear five panelists speak about living with a disability.

“So, we have someone with autism, ADD, a brain injury, blindness, and hearing disabilities,” Schneider said.

Schneider, who was born blind, will deliver a piece herself titled “Never Alone.”

“They can expect to hear about 50 wonderful years of partnership and about how I’m celebrating a partnership by naming a dog in honor of the people who first taught me to use a cane and first taught me to use a dog,” Schneider said.

Another panelist who suffered a brain injury from a car crash at the age of 18 will be delivering two pieces titled “Don’t Listen to My Laughter” and “My Gettysburg.”

“One of them is called ‘Don’t Listen to My Laughter’ it was kinda in response to I laughed a lot because I wasn’t able to cry,” Nelson said. “The second piece is called ‘My Gettysburg’ and it is a way to say thank you to all the people who have gone before me.”

The goal of the event is to give people a chance to walk in the shoes of the panelists, so they understand what ADA has provided for them.

“Even after having an accident that results with a hole in your head and that people are telling you no every corner…there is a way,” Nelson said. “There is a way around and the Americans With Disabilities Act helps make that happen.”

Writing the Disability Experience will take place at the UW-Eau Claire Flesh Family Welcome Center in the Chippewa River room from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26th. There will be a sign language interpreter present as well as captioning. The event is free to visitors. People can park in Visitor Lot B at 127 Roosevelt Avenue, Eau Claire, WI.