I have always been enormously proud to work at a University that was accessible before there were any ADA requirements. When I started at a Hofstra, the only fully accessible institutions were Hofstra and University of California, Berkeley. Today, accessibility is the law; it is more and more prevalent in the United States, and it has made an enormous difference. Individuals with disabilities have the freedom and mobility they are entitled to and our country is the beneficiary.
Having traveled extensively over the years, it is clear that parts of the globe haven't yet made accessibility the priority it needs to be. First the late breaking good news: individuals with disabilities, especially individuals in wheelchairs were very present in Disneyland Paris and were able to take advantage of much of what was offered. Paris and London seemed somewhat accessible, with London seeming more accessible, with individuals with disabilities being much more visible and on the move on the streets. Every standard London cab also has a wheelchair ramp and buses seem to be similarly equipped. This is clearly a model that other major world cities should emulate ASAP. Paris seems to have more barriers and far fewer ways for individuals with disabilities to move around more freely. In all cities, historical sites are the greatest challenge. It is at times particularly challenging to achieve accessibility while maintaining what needs to be preserved.
For some developing economies, with prevalent and widespread poverty, progress will be slow. For other countries that have made significant and dramatic economic progress, more needs to be done in the area of accessibility. As a first step, in these wealthier nations, new construction should have mandated accessibility. Over time this will make a tremendous difference. As an educator I am especially concerned that educational and health care facilities be in the forefront of accessibility in all countries. Health care and education are prerequisites for a better life for everyone, and individuals with disabilities especially need support in these areas.
Serving the needs of all individuals, including those with special needs, must for all of us be an ongoing priority. Even in those places where much has already been done, much remains to be done.