Updated: Jan 21, 2020
This is an open letter to all U.S. Senate, U.S. Representatives and people who live with disabilities, advocate or care for those with disabilities.
So I am disabled. I can say that because it's true. Also because I am talking about myself. The words a person uses to describe themselves are very personal. Words can raise people up or tear them down. The words to describe disabled people are evolving and getting very politically correct. I use disabled because I understand the meaning. As well as most people. It means I don't have the physical ability of "abled" people. Since my disability is fairly recent and not from birth it is something I am still getting used to.
When I was "able bodied" meaning I could stand and walk normally, I was a CNA (certified nursing assistant). Being in the healthcare field I thought I well understood the need for accessibility and disabled people to be able to access everything. Also to be treated as a normal person and not someone who NEEDS HELP.
I have to admit...I was wrong...I didn't truly understand all of this until I became disabled myself. And I started to need accessibility and accommodations myself. The world at large looks at accessibility as an added burden to accommodate disabled people. When they should look at accessibility as a normal part of life for people to be able to experience everything life has to offer!
The first step is understanding that everyone is their own best advocate and do your best to advocate for your needs. Also understanding that calling anyone names regardless of their abilities or disabilities, is fruitless and a complete waste of time.
The second step is be open and honest with the lawmakers about what is and isn't working in your opinion and from your view point. I commonly see people complain in Facebook groups that disabled parking spots are blocked. Well obviously the way we are doing this isn't working. So what do we need to have changed? What do we need to tell the lawmakers to do to fix this problem? Should places have to implement wheelchair ramp only parking as well as disability placard spots? What is going to fix this problem? Or do you just want to complain?
I have experienced "accessible places" that really weren't.
Because the ramps are uneven or in very inconvenient spots. Meaning that even though there is a wheelchair ramp in order to use it we have to maneuver in ways that are difficult or they are very steep!
The doors are very heavy and barely large enough to fit my wheelchair through. We need to increase the required door size because they are barely wide enough to fit small wheelchairs through. I am a larger person so I have a larger wheelchair, but even small people with some electric wheelchairs can't fit through doors because of how wheelchairs are designed!
They put racks or stands with stuff on them in the way of being able to maneuver through. This I have experienced at almost every store I have EVER been in!!!
The American's With Disabilities Act of 1990 (commonly called ADA) was a step in the right direction. But we haven't gone nearly far enough.
People who need to use wheelchairs are often stuck in corners or the back of rooms because they are not accessible. They are often forced to jump through hoop after hoop to get the accommodations they need because of societies views that we are a burden.
We don't want to be considered a burden. We want to be confident, accepted, helpful, and productive members of society. We want to be thought of as people and not a disabled person.
With just a little thought into organizing things we could change this!
For starters get someone who is disabled to help with design elements of new buildings. And figure out how to modify current buildings to incorporate the ability to have a wheelchair in the building. In some cases it could be as simple as incorporating a ramp.
There are other disabilities besides physical ones. Having options for those that are hearing or vision impaired should not be difficult. But it does seem to be. We need to start thinking of other's not just ourselves.
So let's encourage lawmakers to enact legislation that does not make people with disabilities feel like a burden. We do that by writing letters!
Let's encourage places of business to make things more inclusive of people with disabilities! We do that by education and compassion. Do you frequent a business often and it is inaccessible for you? Speak to the manager or owner and let them know your needs and what is not working. Maybe you can come up with a solution together!
Here is how you find your Congressional Representatives.
If you have an ADA question or problem click here.