On July 26th this year, there will be a conference hosted by the Independent Living Center of Kern County in honor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being signed into law on that same day back in 1990.
The awareness and advocacy surrounding this month are recognized in the Disability Pride Month campaigns by Disability Rights California and many other organizations. It is also seen throughout the year through transformative legislation like in the House of Representatives, which passed the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration to allow more protections for disabled passengers, among other improvements.
Locally, businesses have been pushed to collaborate with the disabled community in Kern County to be more legally inclusive, with updated infrastructure that reflects proper knowledge of ADA regulations.
Jimmie Soto, the Executive Director of Independent Living Center, stated the ADA conference being held would hopefully bolster more relationships with Small Businesses and ADA specialists who know how to help bring properties up to code.
“The reason why we [host the conference] is because a lot of people with disabilities, and businesses, don’t know where to go or what questions to ask, and who can help them. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, thirty-three years ago, there’s still things that come up today that impacts people with disabilities and their access to services, resources, and activities,” said Soto.
Any Kern residents who can’t make it to the ADA Conference can still reach out to the Independent Living Center; on their website, they have resources from local, state, and national entities. Kern Regional Center is a private nonprofit funded by the state to provide services to those with developmental disabilities and their loved ones. New Advances For People with Disabilities (NAPD), based in Bakersfield, is another private nonprofit resource that helps their clients with things like accounting to public relations.
Tickets to the ADA Conference are $75 and can be purchased online through the visitbakersfield.com or eventbrite.com websites. Due to the funding from sponsors, there will be various booths with vital information, vendors, and prizes being raffled off. The guest speakers are from the National Council on Disability, Disability Rights California, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
For Soto, it’s important for all Kern residents to be familiar with ADA laws and ways to better help their caregiver and disabled community.
“Especially for the mom-and-pop shops, the bigger corporate America they know because they have attorneys and they have divisions that deal with accessibility. Usually, the smaller businesses don’t know these places need to be accessible to people with disabilities,” stated Soto.
These pockets of public spaces and businesses that have yet to make proper changes hinder the community’s progress to be more inclusive. Soto told Kern Sol News that a huge hindrance for disabled people is that certain disabilities could affect their ability to voice or show their protest to injustices they face. A way non-disabled people can help is by educating themselves on updated laws and participating in civic engagement.
“The biggest issue is if these businesses are not accessible, then why are they being opened up in the first place,” asked Soto.
This Disability Pride Month, Bakersfield residents have the opportunity to participate in information conferences or can simply participate by learning more about the only minority that anyone can be a part of at any moment.