Q&A with Ed Neuberg
You have been involved with the Americans with Disabilities Act for many years. During that time, how are you seeing the conversation around the law change?
Conversations around the ADA continue to evolve with the current social climate, and many aspects of the ADA remain the same even after 30 years. Currently, access to transportation is a main concern. Companies like Lyft and Uber fill an important personal transportation need, and these companies are still not fully accessible. At this time, it’s hard to determine whether these companies are responsible under the same regulations that govern public transportation. As this matter unfolds, people with disabilities are left without an aspect of transportation that provides a level of freedom and convenience many take for granted.
After 30 years, there is still discussion about accessibility to buildings, services, programs, websites, etc., and what it should look like. Even with a clear set of standards, many interject their own personal opinions on what accessibility and compliance look like. It seems that this will be an ongoing theme for years to come. Keeping the importance of ADA and accessibility at the forefront of what an organization does is key to maintaining ADA compliance.
Your passion for the ADA is evident. Why do you do this work? How did you come to it?
In my life I have been exposed to a multitude of scenarios and situations that involve disability, some personal, some professional and some involving very close friends. I have witnessed injustice when someone with a disability just wanted to buy a cup of coffee or have dinner at a restaurant. I also have a strong sense of fairness and parity ingrained in me by my father. From these experiences in my life I gravitated toward the ADA. I revere the ADA – which is civil rights law – and its implementation to open up personal freedoms and responsibilities for everyone.
You’ve said that the ADA is everyone’s business. Why?
The ADA touches just about every aspect of public life. Employment, access to government services, transportation, access to businesses and communication are all part of the ADA. All these areas have standards established to ensure accessibility. I always say, “If it’s not a janitor’s or electrical closet, we need to look at accessibility.”
How does the ADA shape transit delivery?
Transportation is fundamental to public life. I think the people who crafted the ADA knew this, and that’s why there are separate and specific regulations governing public transportation. People with disabilities depend on public transportation just like someone without a disability. There are even circumstances where someone is not able to drive or secure other means of transportation. Access to public transportation is crucial.
What opportunities for improvement do you see at RTD?
I think RTD does a great job with ADA compliance. It’s at the forefront of everything we do. I think improvement lies in maintaining accessibility and its importance, monitoring new projects and alterations, and continued public engagement. As technology evolves, RTD has the opportunity to be a leader by incorporating and ensuring accessibility with cutting-edge solutions and ideas.
What do you wish people understood or considered about the ADA? What misconceptions continue to exist?
One thing comes to mind here, and it was stressed to me years ago: “The ADA is civil rights law. It’s about equal rights and access, not special rights.”
With the ADA having been around for three decades, do you find that a certain level of understanding is easier to find than it was, or is education still necessary? If so, in what ways?
I think education around the ADA will always be needed. Its importance will always need to have a voice and someone to guide it. One thing that’s refreshing after many years of the ADA is that everyone seems to know about it and what it represents.
What needs to happen for meaningful ADA gains to be made?
From a high-level view, we all need to continue generating awareness about the ADA and its importance to everyone, even to people without a disability. One in five people in the United States – that’s 20% – are considered to have a disability. At some point in time, you will know someone with a disability and/or benefit from the ADA personally. Disability does not discriminate. No matter who you are or what you do, it can impact and touch everyone and every part of our society (e.g., race, class, religion, culture).
Ed Neuberg is the ADA manager for RTD.