Practice listening to the VOA 83 medical English newsletter

Twenty years ago President George HW Bush signed a civil rights law called the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. Congress passed the law to bar discrimination against people with physical or mental disabilities. The ADA governs employers, transportation systems and public places, including hotels and other businesses. In New York City, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities co-hosted a celebration on June twenty-sixth to mark the anniversary.

Hip-hop artist Rick Fire says conditions are far better they were twenty years ago. But he says being in a wheelchair is still often a problem in his neighborhood in the Bronx area of ​​the city. Matthew Sapolin is commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and he is blind. His job is to try to improve life for disabled New Yorkers. This includes things like adding ramps and handrails in buildings and signs written in Braille in elevators.

Bobbi Wailes developed polio before a vaccine became available in the nineteen fifties. She was twelve years old. Schools then were not designed for wheelchairs. She had to be tutored at home three days a week. After high school, she got a job in one of the few workplaces with wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. She worked at a hospital for thirty years, mostly as an administrator. Bobbi Wailes also fought for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She said: “Disability doesn’t care if you’re young, old, rich, poor, black, white, green or purple. Disability will always be here, unfortunately. So it behooves all of us to make it a world that everybody can live in. ”Even with the ADA, a lot of work remains to reach the goal of equality for the disabled – and not just in America.

Marca Bristo heads a group called the United States International Council on Disabilities. She was paralyzed at the age of twenty-three. She broke her neck diving into a lake. She said people with disabilities are living in the streets in some countries. Some people believe they have been possessed by the devil. They are a shame to their families. They are left to live subhuman lives. And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report. To comment on this report, go to our website, You can also watch a TV report on the twentieth anniversary of the ADA. And you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English.

Words in This Story

civil – adj. not military or religious, or relating to the ordinary people of a country

disability – n. an illness, injury, or condition that makes it difficult for someone to do the things that other people do

wheelchair – n. a chair on wheels that people who are unable to walk use for moving around

commissioner – n. an important official who has responsibility in a government department or another organization

ramp – n. a raised strip built into a road to make vehicles drive more slowly

handrail – n. a long, narrow bar of wood or metal that people can hold on to for support, especially when going up or down stairs

tutor – v. to teach a child outside of school, especially in order to give the child extra help with a subject he or she finds difficult

wheelchair access – n. a method by which someone can enter or leave a place in a wheelchair

paralysed – adj. (US paralyzed) unable to move or act

subhuman – adj. having or showing behavior or characteristics that are much worse than those expected of ordinary people

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