LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — 2021 is the 31st anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in areas including employment, transportation, public accommodations, and accommodations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Kentucky native Tammy Harrod was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2005. Over the years, the neurological disease has affected her day-to-day life. She said, at first, she was using a cane, but in recent years she's needed a wheelchair to move around.
Life changed in 2014 when she received her service dog, Gage.
"He gives me enhanced independence every single day," Harrod said. "I knew I needed help/I was dropping things, I don't walk, and my hands are getting worse and worse."
Harrod was paired with Gage through Canine Companions, a national nonprofit that trains service dogs and places them with people with disabilities for free. They have graduated 7,020 service animals nationwide since 1975.
Gage, like all dogs trained by Canine Companions, knows 45 commands to assist with daily tasks.
"If I need him to do anything he assists. So now my head is, 'Let's do this. MS doesn't have me,'" Harrod said.
Where Gage can't help, ADA laws and protections step in.
"If there weren't laws, everything would not be accessible to us," Harrod said.
July 26 is recognized as ADA Awareness Day.
Harrod said ADA is a blessing because it serves to improve her quality of life every day.
Recently, she said her neighborhood added ADA-friendly curbs, which mean she can get onto the sidewalk without fear of her chair tipping over.
However, while knowledge and understanding are spreading, Harrod said she still faces barriers when she leaves the house.
When she parks her handicap van, she will come back to find vehicles or carts blocking the lined space where her ramp pulls out.
"I've waited 45 minutes to an hour after even having their license plate and the make of the vehicle announced for them to come out move their car," she said.
Harrod said fake service dogs in businesses are also a problem. An untrained animal in a public space can distract a trained service dog.
"It can be even worse. If that dog was to bite your dog, that might end his career, and then that person with a disability, their independence that the dog was giving, of course, is gone," she said.
You can find more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act here.