The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life. Although the ADA is law across the nation, on a macro-level, there can still be improvements regarding access and assistance for seniors and people with disabilities on a micro-level, within the community one is living in. Milal Mission and Miguel Rivera prime example of difference makers when it comes to the betterment of the disability community and general public.
On August 26, Milal Mission, an organization that is committed to helping people with developmental disabilities, invited Miguel Rivera to be their keynote speaker at their 2017 volunteer workshop. This workshop consisted of 150 high school volunteers who have been volunteering with Milal Mission for as long as 1-4 years. The message Miguel was asked to talk about involved the importance of volunteering not only as a student but post high school as well. Being that this particular workshop consisted of high school students who volunteer to help people with disabilities, it stood out to him even more. Miguel was looking forward to speaking at this workshop because of the fact that, 1) as an abled-bodied high school student he did not value volunteering nor was he around people who did, 2) he now lives life with a disability and knows what it is like and how important it is to be helped and to help others. He believes that being the change we want to see in the world is the most important thing we can do.
“I am excited to share, but most importantly I am honored be in a room full of selfless individuals,” Miguel says after giving thanks to Alex Ryu, Director of Milal Mission, for the introduction and invitation to speak. “I have to be honest, as a high school student, I didn’t see the value in volunteering. It wasn’t until a few years later, when my entire life changed, that I started to not only see but feel the impact giving back can have on a person with or without a disability.” In 2009, Miguel suffered a spinal cord injury that required him to receive support from others more than ever. It’s something that he is truly grateful for; he often times shares that without the love and support from those closes to him, he wouldn’t be where he is today. “I would like you all to be aware that your volunteerism is more than what it looks like on the surface – it is more than putting it on your college application; it is more than doing something because of what your parents say; it is more than your volunteering experience – it is about the impact you can have on the betterment of humanity as a whole. You are the difference maker.”
It has been twenty-seven years since The American with Disabilities Act has been written into law, and although it prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, there remains a need for improvement in accessibility in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all open and private places open to the general public. “This need is a need for all of humanity, for becoming one,” as Alex Ryu shared during the workshop.