Wednesday, December 17, 2014


A few weeks ago I posted a question on Facebook aimed at my attorney friends. What do you think about disability accommodations? Do you see them as  reasonable modifications that allow people to function? Do you see them as something that is fair and just, that promotes inclusion or at its core do you see it as special treatment. One of my friends answered with one word, "Semantics". On one hand I can see his point. If disability legislation (ADA, IDEA, RA take your pick) is law, what difference does it make? It's now part of our system, a part of our toolbox, what is the benefit of asking "why". We don't question a lot of our other laws and how they came to be. They just are. And if I wasn't personally invested in the matter, I'd say : those are the standards that I look at, those are the criteria, you meet them or you don't or you can make this or that argument and those are the anticipated outcomes. And on a different note: Does it matter how you got here when you're already here. I however am not just an attorney. I strive to promote inclusion and understanding. Yes, it helps that if I choose to go that path, I don't have to care to think what people think. The law is the law, it objectively exists outside of what people do and do not get, feel is right and justified. That I don't have to explain myself to anyone or seek validation. That the question I ask is "Is there a ramp" and not "Do I deserve a ramp". And yet I think, as much as it pains me to say it- that what people think matters. For a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe that the reason people dread ADA compliance - that they treat it as something the just must do, hiding things and hoping to get away with as much as possible is because they don't see how it affects other people's lives (and in turn their own bottom line).  Others are likely to include you if they understand your journey. If they're inspired by your struggle and form a connection on a human level. Secondly, I say it's a matter of respect. It's easy to dismiss someone if you think they've gotten an easy ride. I can't speak for other people, but I know I worked hard to be where I am today. I did  have help along the way in places where my disability limited me beyond my control. If you think it was to give me more than just my fair shake you undermine not only how I got here, but where I am. And it's hurts, having to look at people who smile and nod and underneath it all still assume that some bit of it is undeserved, like there's some kind of a trick to it. Like it's not your place, like you shouldn't be here. And one person who you shouldn't explain yourself is your attorney. Someone who should be unequivocally on your side. And I know as attorneys it's our "job", but as I human being I like to know how you "feel," how much you identify with a particular position and how much you "know", because it relates back to a very human experience, understanding. I don't think it's semantics if I ask, do you believe me, because that's what it comes down to. One thing that could ruin the experience is that lingering doubt, deep, deep down underneath all the laws, all the cases and all the political correctness. And this is why it matters.

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