SAN ANTONIO – Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act 30 years ago, and families and advocates in San Antonio say much more needs to be done for adequate representation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monica Rendon cares for her 35-year-old daughter, Erica, who has autism and needs care around the clock.
Monica said she believes ADA should be expanded upon to better provide for those it serves in the community.
“It’s just the acknowledgment that they’re out there. Handicapped people are out there. Everybody’s not the same,” Monica said. “Make them part of the community.”
The ADA covers an array of issues, from building ramps for the physically disabled to closed captioning for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The act pushed for the first funding of programs like the full-day program and workforce classes at The ARC of San Antonio.
“Without The ARC, I would not be able to work full-time,” Monica said. “Erica goes there for hours every day.”
President and CEO of The ARC Mike Bennett said ADA has paved a way for generations of disabled persons, but the mission is far from over.
“Tremendous progress has been made, and that’s why we’re celebrating it,” Bennett said. “But with the same token, as with most of these issues, it ain’t all done. It’s not finished.”
Bennett said organizations like ARC are still not fully funded by the state, which makes it hard on families who need support.
“In the state of Texas, on average, an individual will be on a waitlist for state support for an average of 15 years,” Bennett said.
Monica said Erica was on a waitlist for 11 or 12 years before the family received a call for them to get the support they needed for years.
The pandemic has stalled in-person programs, so Monica said Erica is now home all day. However, other parents and guardians may not have as much good fortune.
“I’m grateful I get to work from home, but what about those parents who can’t do it? It’s not easy. It’s definitely not easy,” Monica said.
Currently, The ARC holds a virtual class session, a workout or musical performance, every day for participants.
Bennett said The ARC plans to continue the online sessions indefinitely. He says they have not been offered state funding for their continuation.
“The school systems are being paid for virtual education,” Bennett said. “We believe we fit in that same bucket.”
The ARC was planning to open back up for in-person programs in early August, but with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, they are having to push that back.
Before the shutdown, The ARC saw an average of 175 to 200 clients between their two facilities, but when they start back up with social distancing requirements, they will only be able to host fewer than 50 people a day.