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Emily Shuman is the Media Coordinator of Rocky Mountain ADA Center headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube and learn more at rockymountainada.org.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
The Rocky Mountain ADA Center (RMADAC) provides information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) tailored to meet the needs of individuals and organizations in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah.
The five core services offered by the Rocky Mountain ADA Center are:
1. Answers to questions – The ADA Center staffs a toll-free phone line, weekdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. MT. The Center’s information specialists can answer most questions you have about the ADA immediately and will research more complex questions if necessary. Questions can also be submitted at RockyMountainADA.org.
2. Training – The ADA Center offers basic to advanced level seminars and workshops on the ADA and other related disability laws. All sessions can be tailored to the time constraints and needs of your group. In addition, the ADA Center offers several online course that can be completed as your schedule allows.
3. Materials – The ADA Center stocks a selection of current information on the ADA. Many materials are free, while others are available for a nominal fee.
4. Referral to experts- If your question involves additional information or services, the ADA Center maintains a list of experts in many disability-related fields located both regionally and nationally.
5. Research – The ADA Center conducts ongoing research focused on ADA implementation in our region. The research program is designed to enhance our services and make disability research practical and applicable to all.
In addition to its core services, the Center offers customized extended services, such as:
• ADA policy and procedure reviews;
• Transportation system accessibility consulting;
• Facility accessibility audits;
• Self-evaluations and transition plans;
• Architectural plan reviews; and
• Park and recreation accessibility assessments.
Through all of these efforts, the Center strives to be the go-to regional source for ADA information, guidance, and training for all ADA stakeholders.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 61 million Americans live with disabilities, or around 26% of the population. This number will vary based on who did the research, but the number you generally see is between 20 – 26% of us live with a disability. Put another way, approximately 1 in 5 people have a disability. Furthermore, any one of us could find ourselves living with a disability today. A car accident, a stroke, an allergy we weren’t aware of; these things can and do happen. Being a person with a disability is the only protected class a person can join at any time.
We do this work because, sooner or later, the civil rights law that protects people with disabilities is going to have a direct impact on the lives of most Americans.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
We are one of the 10 ADA Centers that comprise the ADA National Network. Together we provide information, guidance, and training across the nation. The Rocky Mountain ADA Center serves a six-state region: Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This is the largest geographical region in the Network and home to roughly 12.3 million people. We are the most credible regional resource for information and training on the ADA.
With a staff of only seven, we provide services such as online training, answers to technical questions, research into complex issues and customized training for organizations. Most of our services are free.
One of the biggest impacts we’ve made over the last year is in the area of research. We partner with research institutes and universities to conduct research into the practical application of the ADA in the world of today. Recent research projects have concluded that vacation rental properties are, in fact, subject to Title III requirements of the ADA and that so-called “drive-by” ADA lawsuits are prevalent in Colorado and Utah.
Finally, we make an impact in the community by being present at community planning meetings, resource fairs, conferences, and symposiums. We engage with local news media and tackle sensitive topics with our own blog, Access Granted. We can move the needle in favor of increased accessibility by giving a voice to the millions of people who are affected by a lack of awareness and education about the law. We also believe in the strength of networking and strive to be a friendly face to other community leaders and influencers.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
We’re inspired every day by the people who make ADA compliance a priority. We hear from so many people fed up with being excluded and discriminated against on the basis of disability. We hear from people who are terrified that they’re going to lose their job because of an injury or degenerative disease. We talk to folks who are exhausted with having to educate the public about service animal laws when they would like to have a simple trip to the grocery store. On the flip side, we have businesses, employers and local government agencies contacting us because they want to do the right thing. Compliance is important to them and they need some help determining what their responsibilities are and how they apply.
We can see that though there is still work to do, and the majority of people are willing to do it! This inspires us to persevere.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
We want to work ourselves out of a job! Cliché, but true. At the Rocky Mountain ADA Center, our dream is to see full implementation of the ADA.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
Opportunities to educate are the best resources we can get. Whether it’s an interview with a newspaper or radio station, an organizational training, or more casual conversation with folks we meet in the wild, we relish the chance to explain the importance of the ADA and share our expertise on compliance.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
It’s been 28 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed and yet people seem to know so little about the law. We’re battling a lot of misconception and people are often confused. The law is complex and applies differently to each situation.
Most people have great intentions toward compliance but have a hard time figuring out exactly what that looks like for them. They often mistakenly believe coming into compliance will be expensive. The onslaught of predatory “drive-by” lawsuits has only added to the negative association businesses have with the ADA.
Those with responsibilities under the ADA are afraid to reach out and ask questions because they don’t want to shine a light on themselves as being out of compliance. They don’t realize that we aren’t the ADA police; we’re here to help and everything is confidential.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
We have a great team here – small but mighty. I love this quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Share! Tell everyone you know about the wonderful, free resources we have to offer. Follow us on social media, sign up for our newsletter and subscribe to our blog. If you’re in a position to, request customized training for your organization. Take our courses online and educate yourself. The key to full implementation of the ADA is education and awareness.
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