This week, the Disability Resource Center and the Office of ADA Compliance at the University of Florida virtually celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Delaina Parrish was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two.
“I learned from an early age that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects me from discrimination,” Parrish said.
She is a recent University of Florida graduate and entrepreneur who has made an impact at the University of Florida and beyond.
“The students who will make the Gator Nation even better may be the ones that you least expect,” Parrish said.
Parrish launched a lifestyle brand called ‘Fearless Independence’, assisted in developing a student organization, collaborated with brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Vera Bradley, and tested technology for Tobii Dynavox.
She uses the Tobii Dynavox I-13 eye gaze device to communicate by controlling it with her eyes.
“The biggest thing I learned throughout my time at UF was advocacy, not only for myself but for others as well. Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand at Florida and I feel accepted here and allow the independence,” Parrish said.
During the virtual event, university officials discussed how the university has evolved by enhancing technology, physical landscape, and inclusion for students with disabilities.
Dr. Angela Lindner joined the event’s Panel of Accessibility Leaders and discussed the changes she has noticed.
“What has changed in our knowledge is that we now know the universal design of elements, we know what it takes to embed into our classes and courses,” Lindner said.
Lindner also believes there are even more ways for the university to evolve.
“I was walking around campus on crutches, there’s still some help there, I found so many, so many issues of accessing some of the buildings and I became a quite frequent reporter of such of those issues and I think that we still have a ways to go there,” Lindner said.
“Not everyone who has a disability wishes to disclose it. Everyone has their own way of coming to terms with their situation. This is why I love UF so much because the faculty and staff help and encourage the students to empower their voices to make themselves and the gator nation better for the future,” Parrish said.
She even has a piece of advice for other students.
“If you take advantage of all the opportunities you have at a school like this you’ll be a winner. You see when I was born I couldn’t breathe on my own for 11 minutes but to know me is to know I came out with a will to live,” Parrish said.
Since graduating, Parrish has focused on her brand ‘Fearless Independence’, advocating for herself and others and networking.
According to the university, the impact of the ADA on campus has enhanced the success of students and staff with disabilities by ensuring an accessible environment to learn and work.