People experiencing disabilities are everywhere, included in the fabric of social life and public engagement, as a result of the A.D.A. However, these very same people often go unheard, unseen, ignored, and at worst, abused.

The inception of the A.D.A. was just to get the door opened; now it’s time for fuller inclusion. To make bank on the full promise of the A.D.A, people with disabilities must make themselves visible, make themselves heard. They must teach others about disability culture, justice and equality.  It’s time to work together to make disability inclusion seen as a resource gain, not a resource drain.

Providing accommodations mandated by the A.D.A. can be; difficult at times, sometimes expensive, and perhaps even challenging for the non-disabled to understand. But here’s a thought; all of us will be disabled at some point, either by injury, age or illness. Disability is not a problem to fix, but a part of the human experience. And altering our mind set now, allowing for accommodations, creative thinking and inclusion, that allow disabled people to flourish, and fully participate in the privileges and obligations of citizenship, benefit us all in the long run.

Meet some people who experience a disability and are a stand for inclusion, diversity and equality for all and who are doing their part to make a difference for us all by advocating.

Swimming and working for a cause, swimmer Karen Gaffney was on a relay team that swam the English Channel in 2001. She has won two gold medals in Special Olympics.

photo10b She graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon, and earned a two-year Associate of Science degree from Portland Community College. Karen has also been awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Portland on May 5th, 2013, for her work in raising awareness regarding the abilities of people who have Down syndrome. She is a fearless open-water swimmer having successfully swam the English Channel, escaped Alcatraz (16 times) and conquered Lake Tahoe in 59-degree water.

According to experts, most kids who start to get help when they’re very young can achieve almost any goal. They can run, jump, bike, swim or dance. They can do well in school and graduate from high school and college. Adults with Down syndrome hold jobs, live on their own, and have romantic and friendly relationships.

Karen is the founder of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, which focuses on the potential of people with Down syndrome. Watch her presentation at a Portland, OR Ted Talk.


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Born without limbs for no medical reason, Nick Vujicic knew from an early age that he was different.

But it wasn’t until much later, after overcoming ignorance and discrimination to build what he calls a “ridiculously good” life, that he realized his mission: to use his “disability” to start conversations that change lives.

He has since spoken over 3,000 times in a total of more than 57 countries on topics as varied as bullying, inspiring positive change, persistence and determination, and his own life story.Nick Vujicic

No matter where he goes he communicates one core message— that no matter your circumstance, you can overcome!
Nick is the author of several books, including Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life, Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action, Love Without Limits: A Remarkable Story of True Love Conquering All and Stand Strong: You Can Overcome Bullying (and Other Stuff That Keeps You Down).

Watch his motivational Minute Introduction on Attitude is Altitude.



An expert on animal behavior, Temple Grandin has designed humane handling systems for half the cattle-processing facilities in the US, and consults with the meat industry to develop animal welfare guidelines. As PETA wrote when awarding her a 2004 Proggy: “Dr. Grandin’s improvements to animal-handling systems found in slaughterhouses have decreased the amount of fear and pain that animals experience in their final hours, and she is widely considered the world’s leading expert on the welfare of cattle and pigs.” In 2010, Time Magazine listed her as one of its most Important People of the Year.


Grandin’s books about her interior life as an autistic person have increased the world’s understanding of the condition with personal immediacy — and with import, as rates of autism diagnosis rise. She is revered by animal rights groups and members of autistic community, perhaps because in both regards she is a voice for those who are sometimes challenged to make themselves heard.

Find out more about Temple, her speaking schedule and autism or ask her a question on her website; Temple Grandin, Ph.D.  or find out about Dr. Grandin’s research into livestock behavior, design of facilities and humane slaughter  at; Dr. Temple Grandin’s Web Page.

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