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.