On the list of “terrible things about flying as a wheelchair user,” being referred to as “an ADA” by inconsiderate airline staff probably ranks somewhere between having your wheelchair damaged and waiting for everyone to deplane before getting off. It’s dehumanizing, embarrassing and, honestly, just rude.
It’s bad enough having to be strapped into the world’s least comfortable chair and delivered to the seat like a slab of meat on a dolly. But hearing another human reduce your existence to an acronym for a piece of legislation — often while refusing to make eye contact — is the final step in complete objectification.
It’s a legacy Justin Dart and the other disability leaders who fought for the Americans with Disabilities Act over 30 years ago surely didn’t envision, and probably wouldn’t have been thrilled about. But as ugly as it may be, I think there is a good argument that the use of “an ADA” is actually evidence of one of the law’s most meaningful impacts: giving Americans a framework and a vocabulary (however limited) to openly discuss disability rights and see them as civil rights.
Outspoken disability activists and advocates long ago understood that disability rights are civil rights, but prior to the passage of the ADA, I don’t think mo