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Meet the Black woman advocating for greater disability visibility | NBC News

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Meet the Black woman advocating for greater disability visibility | NBC News

Consultant and producer Andraéa LaVant says she strives “to infiltrate spaces that those with disabilities have never been before.”

Donna Owens, NBC News

Andraéa LaVant wants you to know that she’s many things, a living snapshot of humanity’s vast kaleidoscope. She’s a Black woman. A native Midwesterner. A college graduate and business owner. A daughter, sister and friend.

LaVant is also among the estimated 61 million people in the U.S., according to federal data, living with a disability — in her case, a form of muscular dystrophy called spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA for short. The 37-year-old was diagnosed at age 2 with a genetic disease that, among other things, affects the central nervous system and voluntary muscle movement.

“I could feed myself, and write. But I grew up being pretty much dependent on people for everything,” says LaVant, an Iowa native raised in Louisville, Kentucky. “I used a walker and a wheelchair.” That didn’t stop her from riding the school bus, serving in student government or imagining she might one day become a writer, a la Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston. “My parents did not put any limitations on my dreams,” she said.


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Featured Image, Andraéa LaVant, Courtesy Andraéa LaVant
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The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or ADA (42 U.S.C. § 12101) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on racereligionsex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. In addition, unlike the Civil Rights Act, the ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.

In 1986, the National Council on Disability had recommended the enactment of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. The final version of the bill was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush. It was later amended in 2008 and signed by President George W. Bush with changes effective as of January 1, 2009.

ADA disabilities include both mental and physical medical conditions. A condition does not need to be severe or permanent to be a disability. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations provide a list of conditions that should easily be concluded to be disabilities: deafness, blindness, an intellectual disability (formerly termed mental retardation), partially or completely missing limbs or mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. Other mental or physical health conditions also may be disabilities, depending on what the individual’s symptoms would be in the absence of “mitigating measures” (medication, therapy, assistive devices, or other means of restoring function), during an “active episode” of the condition (if the condition is episodic).

Certain specific conditions that are widely considered anti-social, or tend to result in illegal activity, such as kleptomaniapedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, etc. are excluded under the definition of “disability” in order to prevent abuse of the statute’s purpose. Additionally, gender identity or orientation is no longer considered a disorder and is also excluded under the definition of “disability”.

Source – Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Updated: 30 September 2020) Wikipedia. Available at, (Accessed: 06 October 2020)