"We may remark in passing that to be blind and beloved may, in this world where nothing is perfect, be among the most strangely exquisite forms of happiness. The supreme happiness in life is the assurance of being loved; of being loved for oneself, even in the spite of oneself; and this assurance the blind man possesses. In his affliction, to be served is to be caressed. Does he lack anything? No. Possessing love he is not deprived of light. A love, moreover, that is wholly pure. There can be no blindness where there is this certainty."

Victor Hugo

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? The ADA is a comprehensive federal civil rights law that protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the areas of employment, state and local government, places of public accommodation, telecommunications and transportation.

Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted by Congress in July of 1990 and signed into law by President Bush shortly thereafter, has been called the most far-reaching civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As of 2004, nearly 54 million people make up the disability community within this country, approximately 1 in 5 persons. Generally, groups under disability can be classified as the following:

  • Physical: being unable to have one's body/mind work as it once did; fatigue, muscle tremors, pain

  • Cognitive: blaming someone, hyper-vigilance, increased or decreased awareness of surroundings; loss of time, place or person orientation, nightmares

  • Emotional: anxiety, guilt, grief, denial, panic, uncertainty, fear, loss of emotional control, inappropriate emotions, apprehension, feeling overwhelmed, anger

  • Behavioral: change in activity (withdrawal), emotional outbursts, change in usual communication, inability to rest, hyper-alert to environment, startle reflex, change in sexual functioning, loss/increase in appetite, alcohol or other drug consumption.

To put these factors into perspective, consider the case of the employee who was a parttimeathlete and due to a serious slip/fall injury had to have a double knee replacement. This once active individual was confined to a wheelchair for ten weeks after surgery, followed by many more months of physical therapy and support assistance from crutches and use of a cane, which is required now for an indefinite period to support him upright. He is a young man, married with two young children.

Upon his return to the workplace, he was granted reasonable accommodation under ADA. The employer gave best effort to accommodate the physical limitations; however, co-workers were unsure of how to approach him, talk to him, or spend time with him. They were afraid to engage in conversation or talk sports or family around him, some saying they "just didn't know what to say or do." The employee felt disoriented, shunned, embarrassed and suffered depression. One day at work, a co-worker offered to push him in his wheelchair to the elevator. He was placed with his back to the door by the driver, who was also behind him.

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