ADA Generation – Ben Cooper

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In the Trenches, a Dyslexic in the #ADAGeneration

Ben Cooper poses with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (who introduced the ADA in the Senate), Claudia Gordon (the first deaf African American female attorney in the United States), and Ollie Cantos (a blind U.S. Department of Justice attorney who is in the process of adopting blind triplets). Ben is a participant in the Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT)coordinated by the IEL-led National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth.

Invisible, would be how I would describe life as a Dyslexic in the #ADAGeneration. “Prove it,” “Unmotivated,” “Try Harder,” all misconceptions about us are our greatest enemies. Between the lines of law and policy hides dyslexia, shadows in a larger movement. We are still invisible, with our disability it is too easy to look the other way. Because of this we need to become powerful advocates, like the original founders of the ADA movement; we have to make ourselves heard.

School is not a friendly place at times: teachers untrained, peers tease and ostracize, and our reading disability masks our intelligence. Tests do not measure us fairly, so we are held back, our accommodations considered a crutch. Most often we are viewed as accepted failures, poor readers who are not worthy of the same expectations as others. I will not accept this, Dyslexics and students with Learning Disabilities are much more, we are leaders, bright sparks that ignite innovation.

As a youth in the ADA generation I benefit from the work others have done, yet I still live in the trenches of disability rights, fighting for what still needs to be accomplished. I know one thing so strongly, that we are more than “less than.” I am thankful to be surrounded by the powerful words of the ADA, the strategic minds and honorable hearts of those who came before me and stand next to me. I wish I could say that in the wake of the 25th anniversary of the ADA everything is fine, but we have tons of work to do.

No more vacations to the tropics as I did when I was young, now I travel to DC. Here in the trenches of Washington, we battle together, young and old, alongside our allies in the disability community who wage a war for recognition with us. We have allies in Congress, allies in positions to do something. We feel a part of a movement, an army with one clear mission: equality and opportunity.

In the wake of the ADA, we must continue to battle with words, spoken and written. As a Dyslexic in the trenches, the internet is our tank, social media our messenger, stories our ammunition, our voice unstoppable. As we grow louder, more will join in, peers willing to step out of the shadows. Fighting for disability rights is an honorable duty, the ADA is our General and his 25th anniversary is not telling us he is tired, it’s a reminder that our generation has work left to do. We must make sure that as we celebrate this anniversary that we are heard.


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