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November 9, 2012

Barriers coming down

NORMAN — Symposium to address new ADA regulations

What would you think if you visited a friend’s home for dinner and afterwards found you could not get into the bathroom? Or you meet up with friends at a popular new restaurant only to find you can’t get through the door?

These are the daily challenges of many persons with disabilities, but they are, for the most part, avoidable if society would simply catch up with modern technology and know how.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was adopted by Congress in 1990 and amended in 2009. The act offers similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers based on race, religion or sex. It also requires reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities in regards to employment, housing and transportation.

That act was the first major step to removing barriers for persons with disabilities to live productive, independent lives.

Recent amendments to the ADA have opened the doors even further, but adopting a law and implementing practices in our daily lives are two different things, and sometimes the gap is huge.

The ADA and Fair Housing Symposium, “Opening the Doors to Accessibility,” hosted Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Norman city complex, 201 W. Gray St., will provide information on accessibility, Fair Housing laws, new construction guidelines and more to target groups and interested persons.

“There’s really a tremendous shortage of affordable, accessible housing,” said Jeff Hughes, executive director of Progressive Independence.

As co-sponsors of the symposium, Hughes said Progressive Independence hopes to increase awareness of the housing need, particularly with code enforcement, builders and service providers.

A special demonstration of the MV-1, an American-made vehicle that is built and designed — not retrofitted — to accommodate wheelchairs and persons with disabilities will be on display Tuesday morning at the symposium. Hughes is hoping local cab companies will take note and add these vehicles to their fleets.

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