‘How Accessibility Should Be’

Paula J. Brown

By Paula J. Brown

On Oct. 20, Rush University Medical Center celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Thonar Award Program. This program celebrates the achievements of people with disabilities who turn “a disability into a possibility,” or someone who helps people with disabilities to do the same. What a wonderful event! For 20 years we have highlighted the achievements of people who just want to be productive citizens like everybody else. They are cherished by someone who loves them, and this program is really the highlight of our year. It helps that is usually held in October, which is Disability Awareness Month.

It is hard to imagine what life was like before the ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act), passed on July 26, 1990. Many people with disabilities — or as I like to refer to them, people with “different” abilities — had a very difficult time being productive. No mandated assistance, no curb cuts, no accessible bathrooms, no accessible transportation. How could we value so little of the lives of so many? Finally, we as a nation got it. And now we are reaping the benefits of the talents and brilliance that people with “different” abilities bring to the table of life every day.

Rush University Medical Center gets it too. We understand and value every soul’s contributions to society, and to Rush in particular. We are a forward-thinking, profoundly accessible institution that understood this long before the masses did.

I am so proud of our leadership for establishing one of the few ADA Task Forces in the city of Chicago. We are how medicine should be, and how accessibility should be. And if the ADA went away tomorrow, we would still be the medical center of choice, not just for people with disabilities but for everybody.

At some time in our lives, each of us will become disabled … either temporarily or permanently. So what we do for one of us, we do for all of us. Congratulations and happy birthday, ADA. We will celebrate you forever.

Paula J. Brown, MBA, is manager of equal opportunity programs for the Office for Equal Opportunity at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

4 thoughts on “‘How Accessibility Should Be’

  1. I am so proud to call Rush “my family”. Paula, the ADA task force could not had reached for the stars without you.  Anne Burgeson and Jaime Parent, you did an incredible job of telling a story that comes from the heart and makes us want to do even more in the next twenty years. To Beverly, the other members of the ADA Task Force, the previous winners of the award and the many other unsung heros committed to giving everyone a chance, thank you. I will be forever in your debt.

  2. Great article and video. No one ever knows the struggles behind the faces and it’s always good to know someone cares. This article and video has enlightened me on all the hard work our staff puts into accommodating our patients and employees with disabilities. Kudos Paula.

  3. Wonderful article and great video. Eugene and Paula, you both looked and sounded great on the video. Jaime and Anne did a great job on editing of the video and Beverly and the rest of the task force continue to be the backbone and driving force keeping the ADA task force strong for the past 20 years and will keep it going strong for the next 20! Bravo.

    Tracy Parent

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