GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Visually impaired for most of her adult life, Trina Edmonson knows well the challenges people with disabilities can face.
Situations in her earlier career that brought her to Disability Advocates of Kent County, where she learned about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, the law protects the rights of those with disabilities.
“They helped me understand how to talk to my employer and to make sure that didn’t happen to me, and now that’s what I do for my job. It’s my passion,” Edmonson said.
Edmonson went to work for Disability Advocates of Kent County. As the agency’s employment services manager, she helps ensure the rights of employees are protected.
Her efforts are more educational as opposed to enforcement, helping teach employers about things like equipment that help those with disabilities be productive employees. She also reminds those employers of the skillsets that enhance a disabled person’s abilities.
“Good problem solvers, because you have to be. You’re running into new things all the time and barriers that you have to get around,” Edmonson explained.
Bush died Friday at the age of 94. As his body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda this week, those most affected by the ADA paid their respects.
“Anytime I do a presentation about the ADA, that is one of my very first slides, is a picture of him signing the ADA,” Edmondson said.
Most of us think of the ADA as handicapped parking spaces and accessible bathrooms. But to advocates, the ADA was a landmark piece of legislation.
“This is a civil right. This isn’t about making sure the building’s safe. This is about making sure people can really get inside and fully participating in our community,” said Dave Bulkowski, the executive director of Disability Advocates of Kent County.
There are still challenges to overcome. Stigmas remain, and Bukowski says public education is key to helping eliminate them.
Despite the challenges, in the 28 years a since the ADA was signed into law, those who are impacted every day say it has made a difference.
“It’s getting better,” Edmonson said. “It’s absolutely getting better.”