Monday, December 17, 2012

They don't care about us.

"When people see me in my wheelchair they assume I'm on medicare"- tweeted one of my followers in a private message about reactions he gets from the people on the street. As much as I understand and share his sentiments, what I'm concerned with more is that politicians left and right seem to share that same limiting view on disabilities. Disability is a social problem you "deal with". Disability is a cause you throw money at. If I have a "disability" it is assumed that I'm interested or a recipient of free healthcare or social support programs. The follower I mentioned and I have few things in common besides being in a wheelchair all day and dealing with people's attitudes, but we both went into high end careers so we can have professions allowing us to rely on ourselves and not the government to give us things. People with disabilities come in all shapes and sizes. All social groups and income levels. Free healthcare is not something I need for myself- I pursued law quite frankly so I wouldn't have to. But one thing we all have in common- is the need for accessibility and a need for accommodations. Because even if I made a million dollars overnight, I still can't jump over a flight of stairs. I can't take an  exam, I can't go to work if proper solutions are not in place for me. And this is the context that disability never comes up in political debates. I only hear it it framed as a healthcare or other financial concern. President Obama has been praised for the  dedication he has been promoting his overhaul of medical system with. Some people have conditions requiring constant medical attention and the bills for prescriptions mount. But outside of support, this administration's efforts are less impressive. We may speak of inclusion and we may speak of change, but actions speak louder than words. Justice Department has not been very proactive in establishing or enforcing some of the ADA policies. Most famously,  the standards for accessible pools have been put on ice for two years. Only recently they've come up with new testing accommodations guidelines to the Act passed four years prior. Two points need to be made here. When a journalist was writing a story about my problems with LSAT accommodations all these years ago, she was told by a person wishing to remain unnamed, that they are understaffed and underfunded. And that was under George Bush. There is little understanding of inclusion policies across the board. This is not a left or right issue. Mitt Romney spoke against autism and early intervention programs, while Ron Paul wanted to get rid of ADA all together. Of course in reality he couldn't. A lot of statements and stands a politician makes are verified not only by the political climate but also what is permitted by the legal system. ADA is not going anywhere. Still, so little interest and regard for accessibility is troubling to me. When I was  applying to law school again, the Law school admission test was just getting off probation for disability accommodation violation. That was maybe 7 years ago? Now I hear of law suits popping up again for the same type of issues I was dealing with in 2006. These are private suits, but Justice Department intervened with information about new instances and plaintiffs. Information, it appears they had and collected but never did anything with. At least years ago they were  launching  their own investigations. Things are not looking good. I know that for a parent with a disabled child  the ability to pay for therapy or treatment may be of a main concern right now. But consider this. One day the children will grow up. And they will want to function out there in the world and be as independent as they can. And then they will learn that their desire to be independent is meeting very little understanding. It is not a priority. Perhaps because politicians themselves never had to deal with it, perhaps because it's not as media friendly as cutting someone a check. Perhaps it's a matter of awareness. But it's a bigger problem. Consider this: typically when you see a lawyer's ad listing "disability" as one of their practice areas it means benefits, not accessibility. Good luck finding an attorney focused on ADA issue. The actual change I think has to come from us coming together and doing something to change the attitudes. Don't wait for politicians because you may wait a lifetime. With this, I think it's a good place to pause as I expect to be making a big announcement in a week or so

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