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By Daniel J. Vance


  On August 4, President Bush became the first sitting president since Truman to visit Mankato, Minn., making his rally a big deal for my adopted hometown. To me, the event also was a good indicator of exactly how far our nation has progressed since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

  In its own words, the ADA was enacted to "provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities; to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities…etc."

  Indeed, people with disabilities were reasonably accommodated at the Bush rally.

  It was held at a construction quarry. Ticket holders showing a blue "handicapped" parking sign could park inside the quarry along with VIPs and the press while everyone else had to park off-site and use a shuttle bus. That "preferred" parking saved us from carrying our 65-pound, 9-year-old daughter and her wheelchair onto a crowded bus.

  Once parked, we were helped onto an oversized golf cart that comfortably ferried us 200 yards. The rally area itself had 50 chairs, which seemed to accommodate everyone with mobility issues. Everyone else stood. The President's speech was well amplified. Afterwards, people in "handicapped" parking were allowed out first, something we greatly appreciated. In every respect, the event organizers seemed cognizant of accommodating people with disabilities. We have made progress since 1990.

  But afterwards two things reminded me that we have more work to do.

  While we waited for a golf cart to leave, one local organizer motioning us to our right said, "This line is for the handicapped." I winced at hearing my daughter and others referred to as "the handicapped," as if their "handicaps" defined them and somehow they weren't people. A better way for the lady to have said it: "People using handicapped parking use this line." Rather than insensitivity, I attribute her words more to a lack of exposure to people with disabilities.

  Finally, as our golf cart arrived, a member of the Minneapolis press squeezed into the cart next to me, boldly butting ahead of all the waiting people with disabilities and their attendants who were lined up to go first. What he did angrily reminded me of the many inconsiderate people that still illegally park in "handicapped" spaces.

  It will take more than the ADA to change our minds and hearts.   

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