SAN ANTONIO – Sunday marks 30 years since Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The act required communities across the U.S. to accommodate their disabled neighbors.
On the weekend of the historic anniversary, San Antonio leaders want to remind the public of its Disability Access Office, devoted to ADA compliance.
“They didn’t really think a person with disability could or would lead a full life if they had access and opportunity, but that changed with the Americans with Disabilities Act and it allowed people with disabilities to be seen and it brought in a new era of opportunity and independence,” said City of San Antonio’s Accessibility Compliance Manager Deborah Scharven.
Scharven said her department’s sole responsibility is ensuring people with disabilities live in the most accessible and inclusive community possible.
Since the 70′s, they have added wheelchair ramps to buildings, helped local businesses better serve people with disabilities, and made sure an American Sign Language interpreter is present during press conferences.
“I feel like some days we are a jack of all trades but we really value that partnership with the community, whether it is an internal community of city staff or the relationship we have with community members,” Scharven said.
In addition to working with community members and city departments, Scharven’s team also works with the Bexar County Office of Emergency Management on their Accessible Alert Program.
“Which is an all accessible alert communication system where they provide emergency alerts in American Sign Language and are compatible with brail readers,” Scharven said.
Now, as the organization celebrates 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act, they stress that even though they’ve come a long way, there is still more work to be done.
“As the city has grown and as the ADA has come into being, we have programs and audible pedestrian signals that we didn’t used to have. We have accessible playgrounds and playground equipment that we didn’t used to have and we keep on going,” Scharven said.
Anyone with questions about how to receive or request services can call the Disability Access Office directly at (210) 207-7135 or dial 311 to call the city’s general help line.