When I broke my neck at 18, I quickly realized the world was not as accessible as I perceived it to be on two feet. I will be the first to admit my ignorance of disabilities and what the needs of the disabled were.
In fact, I was so ignorant I thought the man with a Spinal Cord Injury at my church growing up was “special,” but instead he was just a weirdo who happened to use a wheelchair. Ironically, we’re the same level.
People do the same thing to me to this day, I just speak as slowly back and their face says they just put together what they did. It’s just ignorance.
As my frustration grew trying to navigate an inaccessible world, I felt compelled to do something about it. I eventually graduated from law school, so that I was informed of what my actual rights were. I was shocked to see that my rights, the rights of the disabled people, were being trampled on every day.
When I was younger anger was my first response, I was happy to confront people and I thrived off the conflict. At the time it felt good, but it was completely ineffective.
My education ultimately led to a more mature approach; find solutions. Being proactive and fixing the problem instead of reacting is better for everyone. Those confrontations aren’t productive, and you’re left feeling bitter. It’s not good for your mental well-being.
I’ve taken a step back and challenged myself to look at the big picture to find the solutions. I’ve learned that education is the key to success. Non-compliance of the ADA and other forms of discrimination towards people with disabilities would drastically decrease if there were more education and exposure to people with disabilities.
That’s it though, people with disabilities are underrepresented, and part of the blame falls on ourselves. People are so consumed with their own struggles, they don’t feel it’s their job to advocate. The problem with that is you can’t have progress and complacency. You get one or the other, you can do nothing, but remember nothing will change.
Accessible Arizona,my idea of an organized vigilante style of advocacy, all started with my journey towards ending disabled parking misuse and abuse in Arizona. I was surprised at what encountered on my quest to end disabled parking misuse and abuse, and how easy it was to get positive changes made. Misuse and abuse have been allowed to run rampant without consequence…from anyone. That includes the many “disability” related state-funded non-profits.
The true reason I started Gimp Gathering, which led to Accessible Arizona, was that I didn’t want to just complain about the situation. Instead, one day I just decided to do something about it. Within a month and a half, I had the support of a representative willing to push a bill through that will clean up disabled parking. We are currently in the beginning phases of that bill. What transpired during those events if what ultimately inspired me to expand on the Gimp Gathering to offer so much more that I feel is missing from the community.
I’m going to speak from the heart, from how I feel, and I’m speaking only for myself when I say I don’t feel represented in Arizona. First off, John McCain is the most disabled person in Arizona’s House or Senate, and he has no personal understanding of the need for ramps or catheters. I’m not discounting his disability, I’m just merely pointing out he has no clue what it is like to have a disability so severe it requires daily assistance and medical supplies, thus that’s not on his mind when he’s voting on bills. Not only that, but the state has eliminated the position of the State’s ADA Coordinator…OVER 5 YEARS AGO! I don’t feel represented in the legislative aspect, and that is exactly why lobbying for progressive legislation is one of the primary concerns of Accessible Arizona.
The second place I don’t feel represented is by the disability non-profits in Arizona. If you are not looking for financial assistance or an athletic/outdoor activity, there’s not a whole lot for you. Don’t get me wrong, those are necessary, but where are the events for young professionals to network? Where is the progressive legislation pushing for universal design? Where are the gatherings to discuss issues within the community and how we can address them? Where is the watchdog of disabled programs to ensure they aren’t abused? Where is the educational material to change the stereotypes that bar individuals with disabilities from being hired? These are issues that need to be addressed, but for “disability” non-profits they are off limits because they are beholden to the politically correct non-profit world.
One of those issues I was being impacted by every time I left my house was disabled parking misuse and abuse. Not one of those state-funded non-profits would take on disabled parking misuse and abuse, despite pleas to do something from professionals directly involved and informed on disabled parking misuse. That’s why I started Gimp Gathering, because if not I then who? I’m capable of gathering facts and presenting a solution, and that’s exactly what I did.
After I saw how easy it was to make a positive time, I decided I didn’t want to stop there. That’s when I decided to pull the trigger and start Accessible Arizona. People with severe mobility disabilities are not only segregated by the types disabilities we have, we’re underrepresented, and it’s Accessible Arizona’s goal to change that.
People with disabilities have not had a voice, but it’s because we’ve chosen to stay silent. I urge you to clear your throat and speak up for what you believe in. Beyond that, we are offering you a platform and a microphone. Don’t pass up the opportunity.
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