To be honest, adjusting to a prosthetic leg hasn’t been too tough. There are things I can’t do anymore, but I find myself able to manage the world. However, this is only because wherever I go, I find reserved parking and ramps or elevators where there might otherwise be only stairs.
30 years ago tomorrow, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which guarantees me these things, along with several other protections barring disability discrimination. “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down,” Bush said.
The law also requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled, so that we can continue to work. Since losing my leg, I think often of the Mad Men episode, “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency.” In it, a rowdy office party is held in the office.
As in the case of my own accident, in poor decision where alcohol was no doubt a contributing factor, a secretary comes to be piloting a John Deere riding mower. The party’s mirth is shattered when she runs over the foot of an up-and-coming visitor from the firm’s new British owners…
“Now that’s all over” the man’s boss later tells Don Draper, of the victim’s impressive career as an account man.
“I don’t know if that’s true,” Draper interjects, surprised.
“The man is missing a foot. How is he going to work? He can’t walk,” says another suit, icily.
When I watched this episode air in 2009, I found the notion so jarring; that the mere loss of a foot would destroy an otherwise vibrant career seemed, to me, barbaric. It struck me as just as callous as the practice of euthanizing a horse. How could people talk this way?
The cruelty from these buttoned-downs seemed a relic; beyond me. Pure discrimination.
“But that’s life,” Joan tells Don in the ER, “One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawnmower.”
They laugh. It is funny.
Since a drunk driver took my right leg, I understand much more fully the context of the footless executive. Don Draper was the type of boss who would accommodate him, the other man was not. Without accommodations like those I mentioned, people like me cannot achieve much.
But for most of my lifetime, the ADA has been the law of the land.
We are often cynical about politics on the Internet but I know personally that our institutions, however flawed, are capable of making real differences in ordinary lives. I am proof, and I am grateful for it.
Today I thank the many advocates who paved the way, the 101st United States Congress, and the late President George H.W. Bush. Because of them, much of the world is accessible to me.
Nothing is “all over” in my life.
Learn more in the video below, which Google produced for the 25th anniversary: