Floating Wheelchairs: 2017 National ADA Symposium

In ADA Articles, Blog, Featured, News by Anna Gouker

Mental health in the workplace.  Law enforcement and your rights. Ideas for even more inclusive restrooms.  Floating wheelchairs?  Yes!

These are all things I learned about at the 2017 National ADA Symposium – an event focused on innovating, elevating, and expanding efforts around the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The 2017 National ADA Symposium took place in Chicago on May 14 – 17, 2017. Chicago is a hub for promoting accessible design and it was a great place to talk about the ADA. This event changes hosting city each year to give cities the opportunity to showcase what they have to offer in inclusion and design.  Now, back to floating wheelchairs…here are four topics people were talking about at the symposium:

Mental Health Means Business

Adopting mental health as a priority in everyday routines is necessary for living a happy and healthy life. Not addressing mental health in the workplace is a significant issue. Estimates say that 20 to 50 work days are lost each year due to mental health related challenges. Such loss in productivity could be reduced if mental health needs were better managed by individuals as well as organizations. Businesses can increase productivity in a number of ways:

  • Encourage staff to be mindful of good health and wellness routines.
  • Promote dialogue that incorporates individual stress levels, family commitments, and other common pressures.
  • Discourage language that perpetuates stigma and other elements that would be harmful to the workplace environment.

Read more about mental health in the workplace:

Law Enforcement and YOU

There has been increased attention on law enforcement policies and procedures in the last couple of years.  Although most law enforcement agencies do not receive funding from the federal government, protections from the ADA have always applied to their practices.  There are a variety of ways that disability accommodations can be implemented into standard procedures in law enforcement.  For individuals with disabilities, it’s important to know what is and is not protected by the ADA when interacting with law enforcement officials.

What You Should Know

  • Good communication. Law enforcement is not specifically required to arrange a sign language interpreter in the event that someone who is deaf or hard of hearing is in police custody. However, it is required by the ADA that a means of effective communication be established in the process.

“Whether a qualified sign language interpreter or other communication aid is required will depend on the nature of the communication and the needs of the requesting individual” (US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section).

  • Individuals may request alternative transportation if they use a wheelchair and are being taken into custody.  It’s important to explain to police officers if and how other accessible transportation is needed to protect the individual’s safety while in transit.
  • Understand what’s happening. Police are trained to clearly identify themselves and offer complete directions or instructions. If written information is involved in the interaction, it’s the right of individuals who are blind or visually impaired to have documents read aloud to them. This is especially important if a signature is being requested.

For more information, check out the following resource:

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

Improvements in Inclusive Design

After completing an advocacy training program, Sabrina Kimball began to examine the accessibility barriers that her 19-year old son, Greyson, experienced each day. While the ADA requires certain accessibility features like larger stalls and power operated doors in public restrooms, these accommodations do not meet Greyson’s needs as a full-time wheelchair user.

Kimball was frustrated that in a public restroom Greyson was forced to change on an unclean floor, as family restrooms were not equipped for adults like him. Her frustration led to action. Kimball began an initiative to bring adult-sized changing tables, modeled by Changing Places UK, to public restrooms throughout the United States. Since she began this mission in the fall of 2015, adult-sized changing tables that are both powered and height adjustable have been appearing in public restrooms throughout the nation.

To learn more about inclusive restroom design and how to start a campaign in your area:

Floating Wheelchairs – Fun Knows No Bounds

Kicking off the summer is the perfect time to get beach ready! Spending time soaking up the sun and dipping into the water is a challenging concept for wheelchair users and individuals who use other assistive devices. However, this does not need to be the case.

With the creation of chairs designed to float in water and glide over sand, beach recreation is more accessible than ever. Other exciting inventions for beach accessibility include platform decking and rubber mats that lay on top of sand to allow for wheelchair pathways.

Inspired by the high demand for fun in the sun that is also wheelchair accessible, Sabrina Cohen started a non-profit to promote fitness and beach recreation for people with disabilities. The Sabrina Cohen Foundation organizes free wheelchair accessible beach events in Miami and facilitates planning for similar events around the world.

Read more about Sabrina and beach recreation:

Attending the ADA Symposium was a thrill! I plan on using the information in my daily life, as well as in my job as an employment counselor. I hope to see you in Pittsburgh!

Want to know more?  Mark your calendar for the 2018 National ADA Symposium:  June 17-20, 2018   Pittsburgh, PA  at the Wyndham Grand Hotel.


More about the ADA:

It was in 1990 that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became the law of the land. The ADA was the strongest piece of legislation to prevent discrimination of people with disabilities in areas ranging from accessibility of public spaces to the hiring practices of employers. Much progress has been made to support the inclusion of people with disabilities in the communities they live. Yet, the need for sharing experiences, resources, and updated information remains the same nearly 27 years since the ADA was first implemented.