‘Sorry, we can’t hire you': 27 years later, ADA remains a work in progress

Ben Servino

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is the reason why there are wheelchair ramps in every public establishment, toilet cubicles are expanded, elevators and ATMs have braille, service counters are lowered, and parking lots are accentuated with blue wheelchair logos.

But on Guam, as it is nationwide, ADA remains in its nascent stage since it became law on July 26, 1990. Understanding its provisions — which encompass every aspect of public life, from using the toilet to getting a job — is a continuing education.

Compliance rate on Guam is 50 percent, according to Ben Servino, director of the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities, or DISID. “Every state has its own challenges,” he said. “The lack of compliance has to do with lack of full understanding of the law.”

The 27-year-old law provides protection for people with disabilities by dismantling barriers to mobility and leveling the field to afford them equal employment opportunities. “Some people think it’s a building code; it’s not. ADA is a civil rights law,” Servino said. “What businesses need to understand, too, is that they get tax credit for renovating their establishments to make them compliant with the law.”