Before 1990, the landscape of rights for people with disabilities was vastly different. Imagine this: any business could refuse service to a person with a disability. Any place of employment could refuse to hire a person just because of his or her disability. Any person with a disability could legally be paid less just because of his/her disability, even if he or she was doing the same work as another person. And if anyone who used a wheelchair needed to ride a bus or train, they would have to abandon their device. This was the reality for millions of people across this country.
Today, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or ADA, together with its later amendments, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It also requires handicapped parking spots; accessible train cars, buses, and subway stations; and ramps installed along accessible routes.
The ADA was a groundbreaking piece of legislation. This turning point in history changed the way people with disabilities are viewed and treated. It made space for people with disabilities to work and live in society. It saved lives.
But challenges remain today for the 61 million adult Americans (1 in 4) living with disability. Although the ADA enacted revolutionary changes, a great deal of public terrain in the country remains inaccessible. Many shops and restaurants built before 1990 have steps at the entrance. At designated historical buildings and grounds, not as many accessible accommodations are required by law. In many major cities, you will find sidewalks without curb cuts or ramps. Subway stations are often either not accessible or have broken elevators, forcing many with disabilities to go two or three subway stations down to find a working elevator and then push their manual wheelchair back to their destination. In addition, the equipment on many buses does not function properly and/or the drivers are not adept at operating the lifts or ramps. And often overlooked is the severe lack of accessible housing. Not being able to get into a store or workplace pales in comparison to being unable to find accessible housing.
The difficult reality is that the ADA can only do so much for the millions of Americans with disabilities. Yet people living with disabilities deserve the same right to life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness as everyone else. Advances in technology are needed to bridge the gap between what the ADA has accomplished and the fulfillment of these rights.
When the ADA was passed, no one could imagine a power wheelchair climbing stairs or going over curbs. Dean Kamen changed all of this and disrupted the industry with the introduction of a groundbreaking innovation in mobility: the iBOT. As well as handling stairs and rough terrain, the iBOT – using the same technology as another Kamen invention, the Segway – can also balance on two wheels, giving users access to cabinets, shelves, and bar-height tables, and, even more importantly, letting them be eye level with standing friends and family. The current-generation iBOT® Personal Mobility Device, released in 2019, has changed the lives of hundreds of users and counting.
The iBOT® is designed to extend beyond the limits of the ADA. It has allowed its users the opportunity to literally overcome barriers, reach, climb, and go all sorts of places they otherwise couldn’t. Although the technology needed to live a life of freedom and independence can be costly to those with disabilities, there are options for funding your iBOT® PMD and other advanced mobility technologies. Many private insurances have reimbursed the cost of the iBOT®. Consider a loan from the Service Credit Union or Digital Federal Credit Union. Qualified veterans are able to receive an iBOT® free of charge through the VA healthcare system. There are also hundreds of foundations and nonprofits waiting to help you fund your mobility.
We have come a long way in the 32 years since the ADA was passed, but 100% accessibility is difficult to achieve. However, if we continue to focus on how accessible technology and construction positively impact the millions of people living with disabilities, they will eventually become the standard and not an afterthought. New building codes and attitudes towards creating an accessible environment will make for an exciting future. But until we get there, technology like the iBOT® PMD can make a world of difference.
Interested in starting your mobility journey with the iBOT® PMD? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-833-3GO-IBOT (346-4268).