Jessica Benham is the cofounder of the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy and the Democratic nominee in PA House District 36. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Disability justice is not just ramps and curb cuts; it spans health, education, the environment and more.

This year, the Americans with Disabilities Act and I, both, turn 30. The ADA is one of the pieces of legislation that provides a patchwork of civil rights protections for people with disabilities. Many of these disability civil rights laws, including the ADA, create an incomplete quilt of protections only enforceable through lawsuit. I want to live in a region, state and country where you don’t have to sue for basic rights. And, for me, it’s not just a political pursuit — it’s personal.

Marina Lopez Gonzalez Duran photographed at her home in Pittsburgh's North Side. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

I lived for 7 years on an international student visa in Pittsburgh. Living in Trump’s America is scary and uncertain.

PRESENTE Pittsburgh Latino Magazine co-published this essay translated to Spanish. Read the Spanish version here. Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. A couple of weeks ago all international students living in the United States learned that they would soon be required to leave the country. A rapid-fire succession of lawsuits and public outrage forced the Trump administration to back off from the order targeting international students whose universities moved classes online due to coronavirus concerns.

Nick and Eric Sinagra (left to right) in front of Nick's home in Whitehall. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Technological advances mean more possibilities for people with disabilities. I ground my work in making tech useful.

Since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act 30 years ago, technology has made tremendous advances that have significantly improved the lives of people with disabilities. The smartphone, a flourishing internet and now even autonomous vehicles are part of mainstream conversation. Technologies like these help people with disabilities, like my brother, Nick, do things every day that many of us take for granted.

Joseph Vernon Smith at his job bagging groceries at Giant Eagle in Crafton. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

It’s not easy being a Black man on the autism spectrum

Though the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities, there are still malevolent forces seeking to undermine the hard work activists have been doing for years to neutralize the venomous stigma of discrimination. We have a long way to go. Until then, I can tell you: It’s not easy being a Black man on the autism spectrum.

Dylan Kapit is a queer, trans, non-binary, autistic advocate and activist who is currently a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. (Courtesy photo)

Academia’s narrow gates: People with disabilities should not be deterred from higher ed

Like many other systems in the United States, higher education is not designed for the majority of the population. It is not designed for people of color; it is not designed for low-income folks; and it is not designed for people with disabilities. Are there still ways to thrive in these systems as a student with a disability? Sure. But it isn’t easy. It almost always involves a fight. And it often requires that the disabled student advocate for their needs instead of getting help from the institution.

Catherine Getchell and her guide dog in her backyard in Squirrel Hill. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

When will the Americans with Disabilities Act evolve to the digital age?

I was 9 years old when the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] was passed in July 1990. It did not have an immediate impact on my life because, as a totally blind child, I already had access to a ‘free and appropriate’ public K-12 education through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was passed before the ADA, in 1973. But in 1998 when I went away to college, I counted on the ADA to allow me access to accommodations like exams in Braille and permission to have my brand-new guide dog come to class with me.

Two movements against police brutality — from Cairo to Pittsburgh

Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. In the past few weeks of unprecedented — and sometimes unpredictable — protests fighting for Black lives and against police brutality, I have asked myself about similarities between this movement in the United States and Egypt’s 2011 revolution. I considered parallels between police-community relationships in both — having first moved to Pittsburgh in 2012 as an academic. I spent periods of time in my native Cairo between 2011 and 2016 while completing a seven-year project on Egypt’s counter-revolution. I participated in demonstrations now known as the infamous “Mohammed Mahmoud Street” protests of November 2011 and attended every day of the Michael Rosfeld trial in 2019 for the killing of Antwon Rose II, including the subsequent protests over police violence. 

During Egypt’s 2011 revolution, the country experienced an overnight disappearance of police from residential streets and protest sites.