Jul 21, 2015

Interview Transcript

Interviewer: The impact of the American with Disabilities Act 25 years later, that is next on The Scope.

Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope. The University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.

Interviewer: Dr. Richard Kendall is with the Rehabilitation Center at University of Utah Health Care and very passionate about the ADA, and actually sees how it affects his patient's life on a daily basis. Thank you for taking time to talk about 25 years later. Twenty-five years ago, the act was enabled. Was it kind of a big deal at that point?

Dr. Kendall: It was a very big deal at the time. There was a Rehabilitation Act from 1973 that somewhat gave rise, but this really enacted this into law and covered the lives of everybody with the disability ensuring equal opportunity and access to, really society.

Interviewer: Yeah. I think a lot of people, now I don't have a disability so I don't know a ton about the ADA, but I think the first thing that comes to mind when you say ADA is wheelchair ramps. But its impact is much bigger than that. Give me an idea of how else it impacts people's lives.

Dr. Kendall: Well, it's much bigger than wheelchair ramps, that certainly is one. But most people will tell you that one in five people will have a disability at some point in their lives. Really over 60, there's a very high number of people with a disability and that can be really in the arthritis limiting your movement around, how much you can climb stairs, getting into an apartment. So it really affects a lot more people than just people in wheelchairs.

Also, with people who are hearing-impaired or visually-impaired, these are very big things that really need to be addressed and how to access your phone, how to communicate with individuals, make your doctor's appointment, get to your doctor's appointment. So it really is far reaching.

Interviewer: I think, one of the biggest jobs that it did is it just brought awareness to individuals without disabilities to start including people with disabilities in the thinking of designing of buildings or designing of communication programs. I mean, take a look at your computers and your cellphones, how many accessibility options are there now.

Dr. Kendall: Exactly. If you look at your cellphone or your iPad, it has a whole section on accessibility that you can pick, and can choose, that can talk to you, you can listen to it, you can put it in big print. So all these are very important, it's had its way in technology.

Interviewer: Yeah, because we all know how important access to technology and information is for everybody. Did the ADA affect you in any way as a young doctor coming up, or just as a person because you work with people who have disabilities all the time?

Dr. Kendall: Well, as a rehabilitation medicine physician, you're always wanting to improve the lives or function of everybody that you work it. And myself, I work with people with back pain so certainly there are many accommodations that can be made for people to work and participate in life, recreation, etcetera, for their back pain. But also in really addressing the needs of people and what do they need to fully participate in life.

Interviewer: Yeah, and if we don't think about it, sometimes it doesn't happen and there's a couple of examples right now, Uber being one of them. They haven't made their app accessible.

Dr. Kendall: Well actually, I just found out today that last week Uber did, now has Uber Assist, in response to all the law suits that they've had and the bad press in Time and Fortune magazines. So Uber does now have some accessibility for people with wheelchairs, so that's good to see. Maybe Lyft will follow along soon.

Interviewer: Yeah, but I think it just goes to show that this legislation is as important today as it was 25 years ago, and still there's a lot of work to be done.

Dr. Kendall: There's certainly a lot of work to be done. The amazing thing is in 1990 when apps and smartphones and everything else did not actually exist, this Act covers all of those things and future technology I think will be incorporated to make it accessible.

Interviewer: And the other thing that I want to talk about. So the purpose of the ADA, if I understand correctly, is to offer quality and opportunity to individuals with a disability and that could be in employment, so access to employment, accommodations if necessary, prevention of discrimination for state and local services like public transportation, education, and communication access.

I teach at a community college and every semester I'll get a form or two of some sort of accommodation I have to make, which I'd imagine is from the ADA, like whether it's somebody with back pain needs a special chair, or chair with arms.

Dr. Kendall: Right. It gives a voice for people who have those disabilities for small accommodations that are reasonable. And whether that is a chair, whether that's a stool to sit on, or whether that's a sign language interpreter for when you visit your doctor's office, all of those things really are made possible by the ADA.

Interviewer: So for somebody that has a disability or may be struggling in any of these arenas, if you will, what can they do? How can they make sure that they are getting equal access, which is what this is all about and what we, as humans, should offer to everybody anyway?

Dr. Kendall: Well, the first thing that they should do is talk to their physicians and request an accommodation based on what their impairment and disability are. If their physician isn't really sure what to do, then certainly a referral to a physical medicine and rehabilitation professional so they can evaluate the functional needs of that individual and then bring it to their employer, public servant, transportation, etcetera.

Interviewer: Are there any final thoughts, or any questions you wish I would have asked or anything that you feel compelled to say in this conversation as we discuss the ADA 25 years later?

Dr. Kendall: We need to always be aware of inclusion and equality in opportunity despite what somebody's physical capabilities might be.

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