Access Granted

Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, from coast to coast

This year, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates 25 years of helping to create an equal playing field for people with disabilities. Over the summer, I traveled across the country with White Nile Media to interview advocates, innovators and intellectuals about their personal connections to the 25th anniversary of the ADA. Together, we produced a seven-part web series for Wells Fargo that focused on the history of the ADA, where we are today and where we need to go in the coming years in order to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities. What follows are seven unique stories that are, at once, thought-provoking, emotional and inspiring.

The Couple Who Conquered Adversity

Sarah Doherty & Kerith Perreur-Lloyd are co-founders of SideStix Ventures Inc., a company that builds performance enhancing mobility devices. With Sarah's inspiration and Kerith's extensive structural engineering experience, the duo developed the first and only shock-absorbent crutch with attachable tips for navigating any kind of terrain.

The Academic Who Wants Every Story to Be Told

Alice Wong is a staff research associate at the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing's National Center for Personal Assistance Services. Alice was appointed by President Obama to the National Council on Disability and is the founder and project coordinator of the Disability Visibility Project, which encourages people with disabilities to document and share their life stories.

The War Veteran Who Won Dancing With the Stars

J.R. Martinez is a U.S. Army veteran, burn survivor, author, actor and motivational speaker. While serving in Iraq, J.R. was exposed to a roadside bomb and was trapped inside a burning vehicle where he suffered severe burns to 34% of his body. After years of coming to terms with his new reality, he no longer sees himself as a "burn victim." J.R. is a burn survivor. 

Non-Profit Co-Founder Who Climbed Mount Everest

Erik Weihenmayer is an adventurer, athlete, author and motivational speaker and the only blind person to summit Mt. Everest; he has also conquered the Seven Summits and most recently kayaked the Grand Canyon. Erik is the co-founder of No Barriers USA, a Colorado non-profit whose mission is to unleash the potential of the human spirit. Erik is living proof that society wins when we bank on every individual's potential.

The Lawyer Who Empowers Others

Andy Imparato is the executive director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and he graduated Stanford Law School the year the ADA was enacted. According to Andy, one of the greatest achievements of the ADA is that people can be "out" about their disability in the workplace and not be judged for it.

The 9/11 Survivor Who Leads With Compassion

A long-time employee of Wells Fargo, Deborah Tourloukis is a 9/11 survivor and a member of Diverse Abilities Team Member Network at Wells Fargo. Along with a group of colleagues, Deborah was able to escape the North Tower of the Twin Towers. She lives with a non-visible disability due to the events of that fateful day and thinks that we need to create a social environment that is willing to include people from all walks of life in events, social gatherings and in every aspect of the workplace.

The LGBTQ Advocate Who Is Leading the Next Generation

Kris Guin is a proud autistic person with ADD and bipolar depression who identifies as genderfluid and queer. They are the founder and president of Queerability, a LGBTQ and disability rights advocacy organization. Kris believes that they would not have gotten a college education (and all the opportunities and privileges that come with having a higher education) if it weren't for the ADA.

Thanks to the ADA, the places that comprise our shared American life—schools, workplaces, movie theaters, courthouses, buses, baseball stadiums, national parks—they truly belong to everyone.
— President Obama