KC woman born blind reflects on Bush’s impact on millions by signing Disabilities Act

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One of the greatest legacies President George H.W. Bush will likely be remembered for is the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Bush signed the legislation in 1990, making it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in public life and employment.

Sheila Styron, 65, was born blind and remembers how difficult life was before the ADA.

“It was always about your personal advocacy battles,” Styron said. “Anything you got, you had to get for yourself.”

She recalled feeling hopeful when Bush signed the ADA into law.

“I remember just being amazed and looking ahead to the times when, ‘Wow, maybe this will be easier, maybe things will not be as tough,'" Styron said. “It was a matter of if you didn’t fight, you might not get what you needed.”

Nearly 30 years later, the effects of the ADA can be seen almost everywhere you look. There are now wheelchair ramps in buildings, curb ramps on sidewalks, smart traffic signals and braille on public signage, to name a few.

“I think the first great things that came of the ADA really have to do physical access to the environment,” Styron said. “I think it changed everybody’s life who has a disability.”

She said she will never forget Bush, who helped make life easier for people with disabilities.

“He really did go to bat for people with disabilities,” Styron said. “He was truly a champion.”

Styron, who is a disability rights advocate at The Whole Person, has never let her disability get in the way of enjoying life. One of her favorite outdoor activities is to ski.

“I just feel free and empowered, and I really love that feeling of just being able to sort of fly along the earth with whatever activity I’m doing,” Styron said.

She said there's still room for growth when it comes to changing the way people think about disabilities.

Another vital supporter of that legislation was longtime Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, whose war injury left him disabled. On Monday, Dole gave an emotional tribute as he was helped from his wheelchair and saluted the former president’s casket in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

The 41st president's funeral will be held Wednesday in Washington D.C. You can watch the service on air, on fox4kc.com and on FOX4's Facebook.