(CNN) — As I sat on the White House lawn 20 years ago and watched President George H.W. Bush sign the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, I knew it was a grand day for disabled people. However, I also knew that we still had a long way to go.
Much like the civil rights legislation of the ’60s, I recognized that the president’s signature might change physical accommodations, but it would take more than that to change hearts and minds.
While I could now roll my wheelchair into buildings with ease, I still had a hard time getting people to look me in the eye and see me as a person rather than a condition. Even today, 20 years later, my wheelchair still makes people uncomfortable.
Why is that? For the most part, able-bodied, “healthy” people still fear disability. As a nation, we treat disabled people more equally and humanely than any country in the world. However, most Americans, when they encounter a disabled person, first think of themselves, “I hope that never happens to me.”
To me, that says we still have a long way to go toward recognizing people as people, no matter what they look, act, walk — or don’t walk — like.