Celebrating 25 years of nation’s Americans with Disabilities Act
By Marissa Bond
The Las Cruces Bulletin
On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and governmental activities.
Over the past four years, the Doña Ana ADA Committee has held a celebration commemorating the event. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the signing, and committee members hope to have the biggest event to date.
The free celebration will run 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at Doña Ana Community College East Mesa, 2800 Sonoma Ranch Blvd., in the DASR Commons area. The celebration will feature art, activities, demonstrations, informational booths on community services and consumer products for people with disabilities, an ADA help table and exhibits from federal, state and local organizations. Jess Williams will emcee.
“We just have this event to celebrate — for people to become aware about the signing of the ADA and to celebrate… leveling the playing field for people with disabilities,” said Shirley Gonzales, Program Director for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), 3381 Del Rey Blvd.
“The disabled population contributes to society,” she said. “They pay taxes, they purchase products, services. How I see this event is, in everybodys family somebody has a person, a family member with a disability. You never know. We have aa lot of hidden disabilities. Whether it be cancer, diabetes, mental health — and so someone can go in and just learn about the different services that are available in our community.”
The event will bring together in one location a large collection of vendors and service providers who work with individuals with disabilities.
“If it’s through helping them with social security issues, if it’s with helping them find employment, some of the different therapy programs local in Doña Ana county … it’s a great networking opportunity for the other agencies to know what other services are provided, as well as for the community,” said Camille Garundo, a staff member at DVR and one of the event’s organizers.
“It’s kind of a one-stop shop for an individual with a disability, so they can find out what resources are there for them.”
A table from the Social Security Office will be available to help answer questions, as well as the Ability Center, a peer advocacy group for people with disabilities.
The ADA Signing Celebration has held a different emphasis each year, such as guest speakers, entertainment or demonstrations. For the 25th anniversary, Garundo said she hopes for all of those elements and more.
Entertainment this year will include singers, deaf poetry and artwork made by people with disabilities.
“This year we are limiting the entertainment from 12 to one, so it doesn’t take away from and individual talking to the different vendors,” Garundo said. “Sometimes, with entertainment happening between, some people feel like that can’t really communicate with the vendor, everybody’s paying attention to the performance — so throughout the years we done a little changing of the event.”
While both Garundo and Gonzales work for DVR, Garundo said the event is put on by a collaboration among agencies that work with people with disabilities.
Some of the other agencies involved include the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Tresco, Disability Rights New Mexico. Doña Ana Community College and the New Mexico Department of Health.
“When we first had the event, we had a lot of different other organizations be a part of the group, but over the years it has kind of come down to some key agencies,” Garundo said.
Garundo said many groups and businesses have stepped up as event sponsors — DACC’s sponsorship has included the facility, tables, chairs and continental breakfast for the vendors; Walgreens has helped sponsor water vendors; and Wienerschnitzel will provide hotdogs during lunchtime.
However, Garundo said, in order for this event to continue on, the Doña Ana ADA Committee is seeking major sponsorship.
“A lot of state agencies are nonprofit organizations to where we don’t have an abundance of funds to keep this thriving if it wasn’t for sponsorship,” she said.
“We just want to educate and make people aware about the different resources available for people with disabilities,” Gonzales said. “Everyone has a family member, a person with a disability. Or will — we are getting older.”
Admission to the event is free and open to the public.
“It’s for everybody, but our audience is somebody with a disability, families with individuals with disabilities,” Garundo said. “It’s a celebration, so it’s going to be a very positive atmosphere.
“Just because you have a disability, it doesn’t limit you. You still have the availability to do anything you want, you set your mind to.”
Marissa Bond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.