I Exist Because ADA Exists

Ather Sharif
5 min readJul 26, 2020
5 people in the image, Bush sitting in the middle and signing the ADA, 2 sitting on a wheelchair, and 2 standing at the back.

Today, we celebrate 30 years of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 3 whole decades! For people who haven’t had a reason to encounter that acronym before, it’s less exciting. Like, on a scale of i-live-in-Florida-and-i-will-wear-a-mask to omg-who-is-Clare-Crawley-going-to-pick, it’s probably like i-will-like-this-post-but-won’t-really-make-an-effort-to-learn-more-about-what-its-saying. But for people whose lives depend on it, a smile, a teardrop, and an infinite number of exclamation marks is probably an accurate representation of their feelings today (hint hint: react out to them, give them a virtual hug).

This post isn’t about the history of ADA and why it needed to exist. Crip Camp or even Google will help you with that. This post is about helping people understand what ADA really means to people with disabilities, build up their curiosity on the subject, and become better allies. 7 years ago, if you asked me what ADA was, or what a disability was, for that matter, I would have given you the same facial expressions that I had during most of my GRE exam (if you must know, the score wasn’t 0). It’s unfortunate that a car accident had to introduce me to that.

Don’t be like me. Educate yourself. Before life forces you to.

If you know me, you know that independence means more to me than anything else in this world. If ADA didn’t exist, I would not have a job. I would not have the same pay as anyone without a disability. The employers could easily deny me employment solely because of my disability. The public transportation, the buses, the trains, would be nothing but do-not-touch objects in an amusement park. The buildings, restaurants, my favorite donut places(!!) would all just be window-shopping for me. Oh, but, I could order food, then? Those apps wouldn’t be accessible either. And all this is an afterthought — I wouldn’t be able to leave my house. Even that is an afterthought. I wouldn’t be able to even have a place to live in. I’d likely be thrown into a nursing home, treated like a rotten vegetable, considered a burden on humanity. My shooting-star wish would be to not exist. And eventually, I’d die, having contributed nothing to the society, to my family. If ADA didn’t exist, for all of you who know me today, I would not exist.

Ather Sharif

PhD student @uwcse Accessibility, Visualization, Personalization | SWE Lead @comcast | Founder @evoxlabs | React developer | 🐱 dad | 🍩 eater | 🦅 🔔 #philly ❤