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We have seen great progress both regionally and nationally in terms of applying the ADA across many channels; however there is still a long way to go and hopefully our 25th anniversary year (2015) will empower people to create more change.

Rachael Stafford is the project director for The Rocky Mountain ADA Center (RMADA).

Her role as project director is to lead the RMADA’s staff as it provides information on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to individuals in its seven state region.

The center provides technical assistance, in-person training(s) and acts as a hub for additional resources for people with ADA questions; living in the rocky mountain region.  Rachael has been quoted, since her hiring in 2014, in many news outlets on behalf of the ADA including: The Associated Press, Harvard Crimson, Colorado Springs Business Journal, CBS Denver, Rapid City Daily Journal, Apostrophe Magazine, among several others. She learned first-hand the need for improved accessibility in the U.S. when she was private council to Tony Curtis, Hollywood actor, who used a wheelchair.

BusinessInterviews.com:  After practicing entertainment law for 10-years in Nevada, California and Colorado what inspired you to focus on the areas of disability education and advocacy?

Rachael:  The previous 10+ years before coming to The Rocky Mountain ADA Center I represented Tony Curtis, who many know from his decades as a lead actor in Hollywood, and he was a wheelchair user. It was hard for him to get-around and it always stuck with me how in the US and the world more could be done to help disabled neighbors with accessibility items.

BusinessInterviews.com:  What are some of the most common questions that you receive about that American Disability Act?

Rachael: There are so many. The common questions we receive are:

  1. What is the difference between the individual titles (Such as Title 1 Vs. Title 2)
  2. Are there regulations around service animals, and if so what are they?
  3. What are the latest technological advances to make the internet more accessible for our disabled neighbors, and where can they be purchased.
  4. Does the Rocky Mountain ADA Center provide free trainings (yes we do) around all the questions above.

BusinessInterviews.com: What are some great resources for people facing disabilities who live in the Rocky Mountain region?

Rachael: There are many but here are a few:

  1. The Rocky Mountain ADA Center, is the resource hub for technical assistance, training and guidance
  2. Local ILCs (Independent living centers)
  3. Your local city ADA Coordinator – like the one we have in Colorado Springs
  4. Transportation organizations that help disabled neighbors such as what we have in Colorado Springs: Amblicab
  5. Websites such as ADA.gov and ours: ADAinformation.org

BusinessInterviews.com:  Can you share a bit about your program that’s been developed to train all state park officials on the ADA and new accessibility methods?

Rachael: Yes, this is one I am particularly passionate about. In 2014, we brought on Joanne Cody, she was a landscape expert for the national park service for 30+ years. Joanne and I are going to be doing the accessibility training across the state this spring and summer with the goal of making our parks more accessible for everyone. We just completed our first training at Glacier National Park in Montana and the staff was very welcoming and open to new ideas. Our goal for 2015 is to meet with several other park staffers.

BusinessInterviews.com:  What unique perspectives and insights do you bring to the table as the only Lawyer in all of the ADA Regional Directors Network?

Rachael:  From a press perspective I can interpret the law unlike most in our network…like any law they can be tricky to understand. From a broader perspective I can assist my region’s city attorneys as they look to interpret the law on such items as ‘transition plans’ or Title II which applies directly to them. It is a unique position to be in, and one I am happy to leverage my legal expertise to for anyone looking for information.

BusinessInterviews.com:  Why do you think that disability-law awareness is on the rise?

Rachael:  There are many reasons, but I truly believe awareness is on the rise because we are talking about the nation’s largest minority group I.E. everyone knows or is related to someone with a disability these days.

BusinessInterviews.com:  Can you talk about the importance of businesses getting their ADA compliance plans in place?  How much do the requirements vary state to state?

Rachael:  As this is a federal law, requirements are the same in each state. Businesses should consider this when thinking about accessibility items within their store fronts or websites: The disability community, according to a recent study, has 5X the spending power of Bill Gates. That is a lot of money we are finding ISN’T being spent because businesses haven’t made themselves as accessible as the could be…however we have come a long way and are learning each day of more business that have answered the bell and good for them because that is some serious buying power.

BusinessInterviews.com:  What’s been your biggest career highlight since joining the ADA?

Rachael:  There have been so many from training HR leaders on the  ADA to helping city attorneys understand transition plans to training park staff on how to make their facilities as accessible as possible. However, I would say the biggest highlight is seeing our website traffic, technical assistance calls and in-person trainings almost triple from the previous year. That means we are doing a great job getting the word out that the Rocky Mountain ADA is here to help. Our staff is working hard to get that word out in order to double our impact this year. Go Team!

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