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Showing Revision 8 created 12/12/2020 by klincecum.

  1. Hi, I'm Beth Haller.
  2. I'm a professor of Mass Communication
    at Towsen University in Maryland.
  3. I also teach Disability Studies there
    and at several other campuses.
  4. I teach at City University of New York
    and their Disability Studies program;
  5. I teach at York University in Toronto
    and their Disability Studies program;
  6. I teach at University of Texas, Arlington
    and their Disability Studies minor.
  7. So I've been doing research since
    the early 90's
  8. about media representations of people
    with disabilities.
  9. So I have a kind of unique
    relationship to the ADA
  10. because I did my dissertation on
    how the news media covered it.
  11. So before I went to Temple University
    in Philadelphia to get my PhD,
  12. I was at University of Maryland College
    Park getting my Masters and
  13. I started that in 1989,
  14. and there's a reason for all these numbers
    (laughs) these dates,
  15. and in 1988 is when the Deaf President
    Now movement happened
  16. at Gallaudet University in DC, and I think
    somewhere in the back of my mind
  17. I knew about what was happening because I
    was a journalist before I became academic.
  18. So when I started at College Park in 1989
    I ended up doing an article for a class
  19. about a deaf student at Gallaudet and I
    got very interested in the deaf community,
  20. there's a huge deaf community
    in the DC area.
  21. Ended up doing my Masters thesis on
    how the deaf community was represented
  22. before, during and after
    Deaf President Now
  23. in the New York Times and the
    Washington Post, and it kind of
  24. that was a jumping-off point.
  25. When I left College Park it was 1991
    and so the ADA had just been passed
  26. and when I got to Temple to start
    working on my PhD
  27. I knew that I wanted to still work in
    the area of disability
  28. and we just had this major disability
    rights law passed.
  29. I remember it more as a focus
    of my research
  30. cause I don't necessarily remember seeing
    the actual coverage on the day it happened
  31. in 1990, but I do remember looking at all
    the coverage because that was the subject
  32. of my dissertation.
  33. So it was really interesting to look
    at it as an academic
  34. and to kind of watch it happen and
    then not happen (laughs)
  35. as it moved into the future.
  36. So my dissertation looked at how the
    mainstream news media,
  37. you know, all the big news magazines
    and the major newspapers back then.
  38. So I finished my dissertation in '94,
    graduated in '95
  39. so it was very early days of the ADA and
    so it wasn't really being implemented yet
  40. because they gave several years for
    people to get into compliance
  41. but as the years have passed it's been
    very interesting to watch how things
  42. weren't happening.
  43. And I think what we all thought was
    going to happen was:
  44. Congress passes this major
    disability rights law and
  45. then people would follow it
    because it's now federal law
  46. not to discriminate based on disability
  47. but that isn't what happened (laughs).
  48. And from a media standpoint, that really
    kind of hurt the ADA because-
  49. and I've even had this conversation with
    Disability Studies scholars and
  50. disability rights activists-
    because they I think thought
  51. in that same way that it's now law
    and everything will be fine,
  52. and there was such a history of being
    covered in the media so badly
  53. that the activists thought they could get
    this past and everything would be fine
  54. and they didn't need the
    media for anything.
  55. So I come onto the scene, I start going
    to Society for Disability Studies
  56. meetings in the early 90's,
    started presenting my research
  57. and even the disability community in those
    first early years right after the ADA
  58. didn't understand why the
    media was important.
  59. Because I remember presenting
    at a conference,
  60. at a Disability Studies conference,
    and people coming up to me and saying
  61. "That's really nice that you do work on
    media, but we have bigger things we
  62. need to be dealing with: getting people
    jobs, getting people proper education
  63. getting people out of nursing homes."
    My response to everybody was
  64. "How do you think you're going to do that
    if you're not getting out information
  65. into public opinion, so if you're not
    able to change public opinion
  66. how can you get these
    things accomplished?
  67. And how do you get public opinion
    changed? You get a proper narrative
  68. going in the media." And now there's
    actual Disability Studies research
  69. and disability activists who've talked
    about this in the early 2000's
  70. about, they took the wrong tactic
    after the ADA was passed
  71. and decided that, it was passed
    it would get enforced.
  72. "Yay we can move on." But
    Unfortunately the business kind of
  73. narrative came into the mix and they
    controlled the message that was in the
  74. media and so from quite a number of
    years after the ADA was passed,
  75. it wasn't being enforced because there
    was this narrative in the news media
  76. that it was an unfunded mandate and
    "Well, we never saw a person with a
  77. disability in our store, why do
    we have to do all this stuff?"
  78. Well of course, the reason they didn't see
    a person with a dis- a wheelchair user
  79. in their store is because it wasn't
    accessible or nobody came to their
  80. website because it was inaccessible
    (laughs) but they didn't get that.
  81. A lot of the journalists didn't know
    people in the disability community
  82. and the disability community was
    very wary of the news media
  83. because they'd done such a bad job, but
    any news coverage in my opinion is better
  84. than no news coverage usually (laughs).
  85. And so the business community really took
    over the narrative and had this really
  86. negative perception of the ADA
    that was funnelling into the media,
  87. and then people just didn't know about it
    cause it wasn't getting covered that much.
  88. There was a national poll done, I believe
    in, like, 1995, of Americans
  89. about what they knew about the ADA
    and other disability rights issues.
  90. Only 18% of Americans in 1995 had even
    heard of the American Disabilities Act
  91. if I'm remembering the stats right. and
  92. So to me that is the fault of not engaging
    with media to do stories about that,
  93. and I know it's very difficult.
  94. Even today it's very difficult to get
    the media to do a more complex, policy,
  95. legal, government related
    story about disability
  96. and not one of those
    inspiration narrative stories,
  97. but it's still worth fighting to try to
    get those stories into the media.
  98. And the other kind of like data point I
    would say, what I always tell my students
  99. when we're talking about the ADA: the
    ADA enforcement depends on who's
  100. in the White House.
  101. So we had quite a number of
    Republican Presidents
  102. who did not care about the ADA being
    enforced for, like, 8 years,
  103. so that is why it really only got more
    enforced once Barack Obama became
  104. president. There's a lot of external
    factors that meant that the ADA
  105. was not going to be changing things
    as radically as we would have hoped,
  106. or what we were thinking back in 1990.
  107. The ADA has had impact in more recent
    years like I said since President Obama
  108. came into office and it was
    just getting enforced.
  109. I use a lot of these examples in my class,
    of news stories about the ADA
  110. finally being implemented.
  111. A couple that I use, one is about a
    little city in Pennsylvania.
  112. The headlines of a lot of ADA stories,
    still, are kind of I say they have this
  113. blaming tone. "Things are expensive
    because of the ADA things are closing
  114. because of the ADA." I always tell my
    students that narrative should be flipped.
  115. The story really is, "Why didn't this town
    in Pennsylvania comply with the ADA
  116. for however many years, 20 years."
    So that, to me is the real story.
  117. This one headline was about this town, I
    believe was Logansport, Pennsylvania,
  118. the headline was, "They must pay $8
    million" for some kind of ADA compliance
  119. that they were finally going to do, I
    think in, like, 2008 or something.
  120. And I'm like, okay that $8 million
    would have been a lot less
  121. if they'd just been compliant back in 1992
    when they were supposed to be compliant,
  122. but they're still blaming the ADA.
  123. But now I think people, the general
    public now knows a lot more
  124. and I actually chalk a lot
    up to social media,
  125. because now people are getting, not a
    mediated story through the news media
  126. and some journalist or some newscaster.
  127. They're actually on social media
    with people with disabilities
  128. and see what their life is like.
  129. And I know in the last couple of years
    when there was an assault on the ADA
  130. and people in Congress were thinking about
    and the President was thinking about
  131. figuring out a way to knock it out.
  132. I saw lots of allies on social media
    because they were finally aware that there
  133. was a disability rights law and they said
    it should stay, it should not be repealed,
  134. and so I think the media
    have a lot of power,
  135. and now that we have this very
    personal media of social media,
  136. people get to know actual people with
    disabilities in their community
  137. and they see the benefits of having
    things in braille or having captioning
  138. or having wheelchair ramps, or just
    thinking about asking somebody before
  139. you barrel ahead and create something
    that may be inaccessible.
  140. So I think the general public is a lot
    more aware than they were in 1995
  141. when only 18% of people had
    even heard of the ADA.
  142. And even if they haven't heard of the ADA,
    they're in favour of disability rights,
  143. and I think that one thing that came out
    of that survey, even back in 1995,
  144. is that, they might have never heard of
    the ADA, but if you pose to Americans
  145. the concept of disability rights
    then they agree with that.
  146. They don't think people should be
    discriminated against just because they
  147. need a ramp to get into a building or
    need a sign language interpreter
  148. to apply for a job.
  149. So I think there's a better feeling among
    the American public in terms of
  150. understanding disability rights and making
    sure that everybody has equal access.
  151. And also I think people now understand
    people with disabilities are them,
  152. are their friends, are their family
    members, and so a lot of the hidden stuff
  153. that was happening before the ADA where
    people with disabilities were being
  154. hidden in their families, where
    nobody talked about it,
  155. I even noticed that, when I started
    teaching at Temple when I was a grad
  156. student, that the younger generation,
    because a lot of them had grown up
  157. in inclusive education, there was no shame
    they were proud to talk about their own
  158. disability, their parent's disability,
    their sibling's disability.
  159. I still remember a student, we had a
    discussion, actually one of my journalism
  160. classes, and one student, she was talking
    about, her mother was fluent in sign
  161. language cause both of her grandparents
    were deaf, so her mother's first language
  162. was sign language even
    though she was hearing.
  163. Another kid was like, "My brother
    has Down's Syndrome"
  164. and he said it with pride.
  165. So I think the cultural change that the
    ADA brought was really powerful too,
  166. cause that is what gets you to the
    place, if you're a business person,
  167. "Oh okay, maybe I should be more open to
    hiring somebody with Down's Syndrome
  168. to work in my grocery store, or whatever."
  169. So I think having that cultural change
    where people are now including
  170. the disability community as
    part of the American citizenry,
  171. then that is a very powerful thing, I
    think that the ADA did.
  172. Yeah. If the ADA stays around, I think
    that's a really good part of our future
  173. because it's a really good law.
    It was written really well,
  174. and it just needs to be
    enforced at all times.
  175. We learned about how it could be enforced
    in those 8 years that President Obama
  176. was in office, and I think we
    can continue to learn that.
  177. And the Justice Department and Department
    of Ed. and all the other federal agencies
  178. that enforce it, I think the
    community knows how to reach them
  179. and tell them to enforce things,
  180. and people are even getting a little bit
    better, even the business community
  181. understands now that people with
    disabilities are a major part of our
  182. consumer culture, and now with the
    pandemic and everybody working online,
  183. people with disabilities have
    been, can be the leaders.
  184. They're the ones that have been doing the
    workaround to try to make a living
  185. when they've not been able to go
    to an inaccessible building.
  186. So I think the future is bright if we
    will listen to disabled people about
  187. what the world needs to basically embrace
    everyone and accommodate everyone,
  188. and it'll be a better future for everyone
    because we talk about the hidden benefits
  189. of access for everyone, so think about
    all the people that use curb cuts
  190. for their wheelie luggage and
    all the UPS guys that use curb cuts
  191. for rolling their hand carts. All the bars
    that use closed caption cause they're loud
  192. So everybody gets benefits from disability
    related access and I think it can only get
  193. better, if people learn to trust that the
    disability community can lead us,
  194. because they're the ones who are most
    innovative and entrepreneurial
  195. about making sure that they can move
    forward in the most access-friendly ways.
  196. I think there should be a lot more
    listening to people with disabilities
  197. in the future cause they've
    already worked out the problems
  198. that we're now dealing with in a pandemic.
  199. I think they can help us build a
    future that's better for everyone,
  200. whether you have a disability or not.
  201. What steps can we take right now?
  202. I think if you're not a person with
    a disability, being a good ally.
  203. If you're a family member, being-
    helping to make sure that the person
  204. in your family with a disability is
    empowered to be independent,
  205. and giving them all the support they need.
  206. If you're a person with a disability,
    making sure that the world
  207. is accommodating to you.
  208. And everybody needs to focus on making
    the world completely accessible.
  209. A lot of people live in houses that
    cannot be made accessible,
  210. and a lot of things are grandfathered
    into the ADA because they were built long
  211. before the ADA existed,
    but there's other locations.
  212. There's online, there's video chatting,
    there's all kinds of workarounds
  213. that I think we can all embrace, and we
    got to quit whining about this stuff
  214. because, I'm talking to you in the
    middle of a pandemic (laughs).
  215. But I hear so many people complaining
    about things that I'm like, you know,
  216. this is all good, we can all
    still be connected, it's fine,
  217. and things are going to change,
    we need to learn to adapt.
  218. People with disabilities can teach us how
    to adapt, and they have a major disability
  219. rights organisation called
    Adapt as well (laughs).
  220. So I think that's the key for all of us,
    is to start learning to roll with it,
  221. learning to adapt and make sure
    that we're bringing everyone along
  222. into this new world that we're going to
    have to fashion post-pandemic,
  223. and that it's accessible to
    everyone, that we're all equal,
  224. that we're making sure that supports
    and what people need are in place,
  225. and then we can be a better community.
  226. It's kind of a weird time to be
    talking about all this (laughs).
  227. I mean, I know it's the ADA's 30th
    anniversary, I'm very glad that it's here
  228. and still exists, but I really feel like
    we can use the model of the ADA
  229. from 30 years ago as we move forward.
  230. We're going to have to
    restructure so much of our world,
  231. why not do it accessibly this time?
  232. And I think the ADA can still give us
    guidance even though it's 30 years old,
  233. I think it can, it was built to lead us
    into the future just like a lot of our
  234. founding documents were, and I think if
    we look at the spirit of everything that's
  235. been passed in the good way of
    giving people rights in this country
  236. and we follow them, we will fashion the
    future of a place that's hopefully very
  237. accessible and make sure that everybody
    has equal access to our world.