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INTERVIEW: National Participant Network’s Christina Battista Reflects on ADA

July 24, 2015

In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), PHI asked Christina Battista, board president of the National Participant Network, a few questions about the significance of this legislation. Christina is pursuing a Master’s Degree at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, to become a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. Christina says her personal care aides make it possible for her to “go to college, work, and give back to my community.”

PHI: Why was the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed by Congress 25 years ago on July 26, 1990, such a significant milestone for people living with disabilities?

CB: The ADA meant equal opportunities for all. People living with disabilities would have the same rights as everyone else, which meant equal opportunities for employment, education, housing, and so on.

PHI: How has it impacted your life and your ability to choose where and how you want to live?

CB: The ADA has impacted my life in many ways. The ADA has made it possible for others to look at me as a person, not just a person with a disability. I have had the ability to pursue my Master’s degree, choose where I live, and have been able to have my voice heard.

PHI: What obstacles still make it difficult for you, and other people living with disabilities, to live full and meaningful lives in the communities of your choice?

CB: There will always be obstacles in life for everyone, not just those living with a disability. In my eyes I believe that one of the greatest obstacles for people living with a disability is the ignorance of individuals in society. Maybe that is too harsh. I feel that there needs to be more education and discussion or just even more awareness about the fact people living with a disability are productive members of society. Disability awareness has made great strides, but there is always room for improvement.

PHI: How can those obstacles be addressed?

CB: These obstacles can be addressed by having more media attention (TV commercials, magazine ads, actor/actresses) demonstrating the abilities of “successful” individuals living with a disability. Also, having a disability curriculum in schools (discussing the ADA and other important ideas around the topic) and having schools and employers invite guest lecturers to come in and share their story about what life is like living with a disability.

PHI: Why are personal care aides (PCAs) and other direct-care workers so essential to independent living?

CB: Personal care aides are the ones that assist those who need assistance to live independently and participate in the community. Too often these people are not given the recognition they deserve. I know for me personally that my PCAs are wonderful and are always there for me so I can live my live to the fullest.

PHI: How can people living with disabilities, and the workers who support them, work together to ensure a better future for both?

CB: This is a great question. I feel that as long as people living with disabilities and the workers who support them always have open communication then the future for both should be great!

— by Karen Kahn, PHI Director of Communications

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