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BrightStars, Rhode Island’s Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement system, assists families in finding care and recognizes and supports quality in early care and education programs.

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How ADA Affects Child Care Programs Today: A Reflection on Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

I do not live in a wheelchair-accessible house. There are no ramps, the doorways are not wide enough, and the microwave is five feet high. These were some of the thoughts I had after watching Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. In the snap of a finger, mobility can be taken away. I have suffered from knee injuries, and I know how it feels temporarily. One day I was self-sufficient, and the next day I could not walk and therefore became reliant upon my mom or family to do the simplest of tasks – cooking breakfast, taking showers, and driving to the pharmacy. I was dependent on my parents for a few months, but some live with these conditions permanently.

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

As part of our “All About the ECERS-3” book club, the BrightStars Assessment Team watched the Netflix documentary “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution,” which was produced by Michelle and Barack Obama. It featured footage Camp Jened, a summer camp for kids and teenagers with disabilities and physical limitations, enabling them to participate in “normal” activities. Some campers and counselors from Camp Jened later went on to protest and fight for equal rights and accessibility regulations in public places for the disabled community, borrowing inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement. The documentary also describes the horrific school called Willowbrook State School where children with disabilities were detained and often malnourished due to the institution being understaffed and underfunded. A lot has changed since the 1950s and the 1960s. Instead of grouping entire populations of disabled children together, each person with disability is treated individually and integration into society has become more mainstream.

ADA and Child Care Programs

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was the first major step forward in federal legislation for accessible ramps in federal buildings among other things. Most recently in 2010, the ADA Standards for Accessible Design was passed. Instead of just federal child care programs such as Head Start needing to follow handicap accessibility recommendations, all child care programs, even private child care programs and home day care programs are obligated to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

As an assessor of the Environment Rating Scales, I can say that some items in the scales involve accessibility. These indicators remind the teachers, director of the program, and assessor how difficult it could be to go into buildings that are not handicap accessible. One indicator on the scale asks for all doorways to be wide enough to fit a wheelchair while other requirements include beveled ramps, low doorbells, and doorknobs that can be operated with limited use of one’s hands.

Some programs across the country are adopting the Universal Design for learning principles. The seven principles are: equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and size and space for approach and use. If you would like to learn more about Universal Design for Learning, refer to the link at the bottom of the blog.

Empowering the Disabled / Equity for all

The common theme of the Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution was to treat the disabled as human beings.  The documentary explained how those with disabilities are and will be functional citizens of society if they are given the opportunity. One woman received her Master’s Degree even though she has Multiple Sclerosis. Another person, Stephen Hoffman who appeared in the film, went on to work his dream job as a sound technician in San Francisco. He said that the ADA helped him succeed in a workplace that is handicap accessible. Accepting the disabled community and, for this matter, people of all races and backgrounds, is beneficial for everyone.


Frequently asked Questions about child care centers and the ADA https://www.ada.gov/childqanda.htm

Universal Design - https://fpg.unc.edu/sites/fpg.unc.edu/files/resources/presentations-and-webinars/ConnPowersBTJ%281%29.pdf

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