EL PASO, Texas — It has been just over 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was created to provide supplemental needs and rights to disabled Americans. It has been just over 17 years that a car accident changed a young boy’s life.
Within those 17 years UTEP graduate student Adrian Villalobos has witnessed how the legislation has affected his life, and is still improving the rights of disabled Americans.
“The notion of inclusion and accommodation of disabilities in society allows us to fuse together as a community,” said Villalobos, 25. “If people of disabilities are not allowed to participate in community settings we are putting them to the side. When we do that we see the negative nature of ourselves.”
Villalobos’s recently took an internship in Washington, D.C. working with the National Disability Rights Network.
“The Network acts through legal networks as the official way of protecting and advocating for people who have intellectual, mental, or even physical disabilities,” explained Villalobos.” They are government mandated and intervene in situations that prove that there is discrimination against people with disabilities.”
It is in the nation’s capitol where Villalobos was given the opportunity to speak before of a congressional committee on his experience of growing up quadriplegic. He said that his departure from the hospital and reentering a normal life was difficult because no accommodations were made for his arrival.
“None of the teachers in my grade level wanted to take me into their classroom. My classroom was forced out to portables for two years because the principal nor the district were willing to meet requirements for me to be a regular student there.” said Villalobos
Villalobos believes that the community and his parent’s persistent efforts to give him the same quality of life eventually made the school and the entire district more aware of disability modifications.
In his address to the judiciary committee Villalobos stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act was his metaphorical big brother.
“The ADA has put itself in that position that there are no limitations,” said Villalobos. “and it’s because of that I practice that notion that I have no limitations.”
Villalobos’s experiences in Washington have introduced him to many influential people who advocate for disability rights. His experience has motivated him to return to El Paso and become more involved with disability services.
“My experience here has warranted me the ability to advocate for my community. I would like to believe that the movement is mobilized by people with disabilities because it matters to us to succeed,” shared Villalobos.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in the month of July in 1990, it provided a new breath of life for disabled Americans. The Act has helped them live normal accessible lives and set the bar for the rest of the world to accept disabled individuals in their community.
Villalobos believes that the only way to eliminate discrimination is to make the community more inclusive. That makes his journey from El Paso to Washington an experience he will never forget.