ICYMI – Watch our ADA Celebration

In celebration of the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, AAHD wanted to highlight the importance of this landmark law that has greatly impacted the lives of people with disabilities. AAHD interviewed Michael Hoenig, Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, and Dr. Amy Houtrow, who all serve as AAHD board members with professional, academic, and lived experience with disabilities. In these discussions, AAHD explored the effects the ADA has had on the lives of people with disabilities through their own words.

Our first ADA Celebration interview kicked off with Michael Hoenig, Program Coordinator at Iowa’s University Center for Excellence in Disabilities, the Center for Disabilities & Development, and “Disability Exchange” Podcast co-host. Michael has been on the AAHD Board of Directors for over 10 years, also serving as co-chair of the AAHD Scholarship Committee. Michael was born with a retinal condition and has been blind since birth, and was diagnosed with cancer in his 50s. His broad experience of disabilities, self-advocacy, and being active in his own treatment has allowed him to embrace leading an active lifestyle. Michael noted that the ADA has ensured that “there are laws regarding the provision of accessible information. For me that’s been crucial because I am my own guardian and I make all my health care decisions and I want to be able to choose with whom and when I share my health information.”


Our second interview of the ADA Celebration was with Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, MSc, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Associate Director at the Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Iezzoni mentioned the distinct experience of starting her education and career pre-ADA as a student of Harvest Medical School in 1980: “I’m just in awe of [current medical professionals with disabilities] because I still to this day feel that I could be fired because of my disability. My mindset is very pre-ADA, whereas your mindset is post-ADA and there really is a difference there.”  

Dr. Iezzoni was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1981 and while she was able to get through four years of medical school, she faced setbacks when applying for residencies, as faculty members “were not going to write a letter of support for me to apply for an internship or residency.” This t led Dr. Iezzoni to become a medical researcher, with a career filled with successful publications and research.  

In one study* she examined physician knowledge of the ADA, finding that “36% of physicians say that they know nothing or a little about the ADA, 71% of physicians do not know how to determine accommodations when a patient comes to see them, and then about 68% of doctors say that they are at least some risks of a lawsuit under the ADA because of accommodation problems.”  

Her most recent book is Making Their Days Happen: Paid Personal Assistance Services Supporting People with Disability Living in Their Homes and Communities. In it she explores disability, health, and civil rights, along with relevant federal and state labor policies related to personal assistance services. By interviewing consumers with mobility disabilities and personal care assistants from around the country, she emphasizes that policy is personal.  

*Read the full study here: US Physicians’ Knowledge About The Americans With Disabilities Act And Accommodation Of Patients With Disability 

Our third and final interview of the ADA Celebration was with Dr. Amy Houtrow, Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Pediatrics and Vice-Chair for Quality in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Houtrow was born with a rare skeletal dysplasia condition called Conradi-Hünermann.  

Dr. Houtrow stated that “the ADA is more like a promise or an envisioned future where we have eliminated all of those discriminatory barriers so that people with disabilities,… have the ability to participate in life as they desire.” She said that while many improvements have been made with the ADA, there is still a long way to go. Stressing the importance of access to care, she noted that “children who have disabilities in rural areas are just much less likely to get the services that they might have available to them if they were in a big city.” 

Citing the importance of research to influence better policy-making, Dr. Houtrow shared a policy proposal that would have tied SSI benefits for kids with disabilities to their school attendance, “That would have been administratively very hard to execute.” Dr. Houtrow and her research team were able to prevent this policy from moving forward by presenting their independent research to the House Ways and Means Committee. They had been independently conducting a study looking at children with disabilities who were on Medicaid and had SSI versus children who didn’t have SSI and found that there was no difference in their attendance in school. 

Leading the health equity section for Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Dr. Houtrow highlighted a blueprint that the Maternal and Child Health Bureau has put forward for children and youth with special health care needs. “The blueprint for change really is a vision for the future in which all children with special healthcare needs including those with disabilities are thriving in their families and communities.” An in-depth podcast can be found here 

Watch all of the interviews with captions on our YouTube page!