Celebrating 30th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
JULY 8, 2020 – The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability – was passed in 1990.
Since then, it and other programs have provided support for many people with disabilities. One of them is Bryan Dooley, who has cerebral palsy.
Dooley grew up going to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. After participating in the pre-kindergarten program at The Children’s Center, Dooley went on to Bolton Elementary and Meadowlark Middle before going to Reagan High School. After graduating from there in 2009, he went to Guilford College, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2013.
“As it happens, I was very fortunate,” Dooley said.
“I started going to school in the early '90s when the ADA was first enacted. At that time, there was a lot of funding and a lot of other supports that came with the funding. Overall, I had a very supportive experience with WS/FCS.”
“I attribute doing so well in our public school system and college due to the passing of the ADA. It's still important today, although there is much more work to do, especially in the realm of employment, which is one of the main goals.”
Aretha Jones-Moultrie, who works for the school system’s Exceptional Children’s Division in Support & Secondary Transition, serves on the Winston-Salem Mayor’s Council for Persons with Disabilities.
On Tuesday July 28, the council and other local organizations will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA with such events as a Parade Drive-By and, a drive-in movie at the Carolina Classic Fairgrounds. The movie will be The Peanut Butter Falcon, which features a young man with Down syndrome.
Those interested in participating in the parade at invited to gather at 6:30 p.m. at Horizons Residential Care Center in Rural Hall. People are encouraged to decorate their vehicles with a favorite ADA or disability rights slogan.
The parade will head down University Parkway to the fairgrounds, where the movie is scheduled to begin about 8:45 p.m.
People can participate in the parade or movie or both.
When someone with disabilities is a student in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system, people from the Exceptional Children’s (EC) Division work with them, and students receive support through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures that students with a disability are provided with free appropriate public education.
Dooley appreciated the support he received from the school system.
“People with special needs have so many unique challenges, based on each individual's disability,” he said.
“It's important to shape whatever support the individual needs to fit and assist in the best way possible. In my case, I had a one-on-one assistant provided by the school system. Later on, I accrued a lot of various assistive technologies, some of which I received through school.”
Jones-Moultrie said that support for EC students includes helping them get ready for the next step in life.
“We feel so strongly about continuing to help our students transition to adult life,” she said.
“As a special educator, ADA is significant to me because it allows for a smoother transition from public school.”
“When students with disabilities graduate from high school, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) expires. It is of great comfort to know that ADA law guarantees civil rights to our former students throughout adulthood. It offers protection in all facets of life such as: transportation, independent living, college, employment with companies, inclusion of events/organizations, and within the general public.”
In 2017, Dooley visited with students at Old Richmond Elementary. When students are able to go back to schools, he would be happy to accept invitations from other schools.
“Yes, once all Covid-19 safety protocols are in place, I am completely open to visiting more schools,” he said.
Dooley, whose 30th birthday is coming up, is quite active.
He writes a personal blog called “Observations from Below.”
He has worked with colleges and universities, including Winston-Salem State University, Salem College, Guilford Technical Community College, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, High Point University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“I've volunteered in the YES Program (Youth Empowerment in the Schools), which was a disability awareness program for high school students,” Dooley said.
“I now serve as the chair for the North Carolina chapter of Disability Rights and sit on the boards of the N.C. Council on Developmental Disabilities, Solutions for Independence, N.C. Postsecondary Education Alliance, N.C. Empowerment Network, and I'm a social media content provider for Bailey Liipfert III, a local lawyer who specializes in elder law and special-needs trusts.”
“I've also been certified by the Southeast ADA Center to be able to give non-legal advice/presentations about different aspects of the ADA. I've also been involved in various self-advocacy training seminars. I co-created a program with Chris Gentry, who works with the Family Support Network and is an employee of the school system. It was a program based on Partners in Policymaking called DATA (Disability Advocacy Training in Action).
You will find some of Bryan Dooley’s observations on his personal website at Observations from Below.
Keith Greenarch is the executive director of Solutions for Independence – formerly known as The Adaptables – an organization that works in Forsyth and surrounding counties to support independent living for people with disabilities.
“Bryan’s story is a testimony and encouragement for people with a disability that they can get an education, work, participate in the community, worship, dine out and shop. All about choices,” Greenarch said.
“We are proud to have Bryan on our board of directors.”
To learn more, go to Solutions for Independence.