CILCP Director of Advocacy, Pam Auer

Advocate with disability shares mixed emotions on anniversary of historic law

  • Updated: Jul. 26, 2022, 3:54 p.m.|
  • Published: Jul. 26, 2022, 3:52 p.m.
Pam Auer
Pam Auer, who has spina bifida, is the director of advocacy and community engagement for the Center for Independent Living of Central Pennsylvania. The center hosted a small educational event near the Pennsylvania Capitol on July 26, 2022, which marked 32 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

By David Wenner |

The Americans with Disabilities Act has spurred major advancement for people with disabilities since it was passed in 1992.

“You see people with disabilities who have much more advancement than we had the opportunity for, with college, transportation and employment,” says Pam Auer, 52, who has spina bifida.

Yet it’s a mixed bag, with surprising problems remaining.

On Tuesday, Auer participated in an advocacy event near the state Capitol.

She praised the quality and accessibility of a new restroom on the Capitol’s first floor. But she also pointed to a nearby section of sidewalk, closed due to construction, she said lacks signage in braille to alert blind people to the closure.

Auer and others say street construction projects in Harrisburg often fail to provide a path for people with disabilities.

Auer tells of a recently opened local restaurant that lacks an accessible entrance. She says the business was wrongly given a permit to open.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990.

It’s considered the world’s first comprehensive effort to ensure equality for people with disabilities.

The law “has been a driving force in moving America closer to the promise of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for the 61 million individuals with disabilities in our country,” according to a White House statement marking the anniversary.

The ADA prohibits workplace discrimination against people with disabilities, sets standards for things such as access to public spaces, and ensures equal access to things including health care, transportation and telecommunications.

Still, Auer says many Americans don’t fully appreciate the abilities of people with disabilities or what they need to be able to fully participate in society.

For example, she says people with disabilities looking to buy a home encounter a shortage of accessible properties.

What bothers her most is when people regard her as being significantly different.

“Treat us like anyone else. Don’t treat us like we’re special,” she says. “I work a full-time job, plus. I own a home. I raised a daughter and I was married for 17 years before my husband died. I get frustrated when people want to look at me as the ‘other’. That’s something the ADA has not been able to help us overcome.”

Recent Posts

Medical Staff