You know what’s sad about the majority of the disabled community? We’re okay with the bottom of the barrel representation we get in congress with the bare minimum in benefits. We’re told to be grateful for the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) because we are “lucky” to have them. We shouldn’t criticize the fact the ADA has not been drastically revisited since 1990 or that the FHA offers next to no protection to people with disabilities in housing, especially apartment complexes. The mentality is to be grateful for whatever we get because when you’re disabled you’re a second-class citizen.
We don’t even know how to dream big. We need for the ADA and FHA to be amended to accurately represent the large population of disabled Americans and demand they be revisited to ensure they are protecting people with disabilities, not placate them. As I went through law school I was appalled at the lack of rights people with disabilities had, even after the ADA. People with disabilities aren’t even considered a protected class by the Supreme Court, our only protection is afforded by the ADA and barely at that.
It all starts with the lack of representation people with disabilities have in positions of power. Policies are created by able-bodied politicians who have no idea what being truly disabled entails, meanwhile, we’re told to be grateful we have anything at all. Ironically if we want to make changes we can because we have the voting power but we don’t and that’s the other problem.
We need to get off the sidelines and demand that our rights be enforced. We need to not be afraid to ask for change. In order to receive progress it is our obligation to educate and expose the able-bodied community to disability issues. It is up to us to ask for universal design, it is up to us to communicate our needs effectively, and it is up to us to follow through with ensuring we are heard.
Often disabled individuals begin with admirable advocacy efforts but are forced to stop due to health issues and life’s surprises in general. It’s understandable that our severe disability takes up our time, energy, and finances, therefore even our ability to advocate is disabled. That said, it’s that much more rewarding when you can achieve progress in the face of so many challenges.
Once we have the platform it’s our responsibility to be reasonable. We can’t roll in asking for gold wheels and the shirt off their back. We need to focus on what matters and that is access. We will make the biggest impact on the disabled community if housing, employment, and businesses were designed with people with disabilities in mind, specifically wheelchair users. We can’t go in threatening to sue everyone under the sun and we have to be willing to work with business owners.
Currently, the only method for enforcement of the ADA is through litigation which is drastically damaging the reputation of the disabled community and forcing others to forfeit enforcement. Some people are forced to forfeit enforcement because they live out of state or simply do not have the time or resources to follow suit. We are seen as litigious and that is because we have no other option than sue. We need to reevaluate how we deal with non-compliant businesses and examine more proactive methods of enforcement. The government created this law and they have washed their hands of it other than giving us the option to sue.
Someone with a disability has to face non-compliance before anything is done and that is unreasonable. Furthermore, it would be almost completely avoidable if they would do ADA Compliance inspections 1 year after opening. Cities do inspections at the time a business opens and they inspect the architecture only. Most non-compliance comes at a later date with things like high tops and decorative barriers, therefore it’s paramount that businesses be inspected after operating for a specific period of time.
It’s unreasonable to assume able-bodied individuals should know what our needs are. That is exactly why it’s imperative that people with disabilities get involved in advocacy, especially through establishing a presence in the political arena. Even being involved in the slightest way is better than not. We need to make changes through education, not litigation and be open to new ideas.
Progress begins as an idea, and if supported enough can bloom into a massive positive impact.
How you can get Involved:
- Gina on Fire! Disabled Community: “Stand Up (for yourself) Lazy Ass”! - May 19, 2017
- “Gimp Gatherings”: Organized Vigilante Style Advocacy - April 30, 2017
- Disabled Parking: How Disappointing is the Current System! Swallow a Few of These Facts - November 30, 2016
- This One Goes Out To All My Tets…The All Too Familiar Awkward Hand Shake - November 21, 2016
- Politicians Determining The Needs Of Disabled Individuals Is Pure Arrogance - October 25, 2016
- My Road to Recovery After Betrayal…and The One Tinder Date That Rebuilt My Trust in Love - June 30, 2016
- Gina Schuh - June 7, 2016
- As a Quadriplegic, I too Have Considered Suicide, Why I Choose to “Live Boldly” Instead - May 26, 2016
- Voices of the Community: My Wheelchair is My Legs, When it Breaks it IS an Emergency! - May 9, 2016
- Don’t Take Discrimination Sitting Down! Educate yourself on the Law - March 10, 2016