A variety of problems require a variety of solutions.
People with disabilities have a wide variety of needs. Ironically, people with disabilities have one universal goal. We want to have the same opportunities, resources and rights as “normal” Americans.
There is no single great equalizer, but here are some of the issues that we need elected officials to address.
Housing is one of the most challenging issues for people with disabilities. The world is becoming far more wheelchair accessible, yet most homes being built are far from accessible. We need to incentivize builders, architects, contractors and communities to create more housing that is universally usable but all.
Homelessness is one of the biggest issues that people with physical and/or cognitive disabilities face. It’s believed that over 50% of homeless people have one or more disabilities.
Employment is one great equalizer. Every group of people becomes empowered when employed, and disempowered when unemployed. It’s been estimated that 67% of people with physical disabilities are underemployed, below their level of education. This rate is more than triple the second-worst unemployment rate in the nation.
Healthcare stability is as important as the actual care. Many people with disabilities require medical care and assistance with activities of daily living. However, state governments and local municipalities often make changes to these programs, and insurance companies are hesitant to cover people with pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act requires that pre-existing conditions not be taken into consideration when determining eligibility for healthcare. It’s imperative that this remains the case. Furthermore, activities of daily living receive far less funding than pharmaceuticals, medical research, or subsidized health insurance yet for the people who need personal care, it’s the difference between surviving and thriving.
Transportation by air, automobile, and mass transit have been one area of dramatic improvement since the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, recent legislation and new technology have made it far more difficult. This is particularly true in nonurban areas or with long-distance travel. Today airlines, taxi services and the tourism industry are still fighting to resist making transportation universally accessible.
People with disabilities are at increased risk to be the victims of crime. Additionally, people with disabilities, particularly mental health conditions, have seen a dramatic increase in violence perpetrated by law-enforcement. This nation’s police force needs better training to identify risks to people with disabilities, and better training when balancing law-enforcement and public safety with regard to people with mental health issues.
Marriage equality has been a hot issue for same-sex couples, yet people with disabilities still have very few rights when it comes to marriage. In many states people with disabilities that rely on state-funded programs such as attendant care or Medicaid cannot get married for fear of losing these services. The income and assets of married couples frequently exceed minimum eligibility, yet eliminating services would toss the same couple into poverty. True marriage equality isn’t a gender identity issue, it’s a financial, tax, and social services issue. Nowhere is this more true than in the population of people with disabilities.
Lastly, education for people with disabilities and nondisabled alike should focus on inclusion. Today society is becoming increasingly inclusive for people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation yet in spite of The Americans with Disability Act there are still tremendous barriers to inclusiveness. Some of these are physical, but most of these barriers are simply a lack of education and experience. Changing hearts and minds is a slow process and it starts with education.