Friday, October 7, 2016

On Disability and elections

My Facebook wall continues to be a heated place for debates as Presidential elections are approaching. Many of my friends expect me to strongly come out against Donald Trump, and yet I continuously refuse to do so. Every few days someone posts an article about he or his businesses tried to avoid or supposedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their take, of course is: that I have a disability nonprofit, that I have a disability myself having spent my entire life in a wheelchair, so my position should be strong and firm. What they don't remember- or perhaps never knew is the reason why I started a non profit in the first place. I took on this mission precisely because it the positions that are attributed to Mr.Trump and his industries are not new and unique to him. They are shared pretty much across the business community. While to me the ADA is something that fuels my empowerment and secures my inclusion, to a business it is not simply an expense, it is a burden. I started the Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation to build some form of understanding for the law, what it does and what it's trying to accomplish. Many business owners have shared with me privately, that accommodations are costly, time and room consuming and that they have to do what they feel is right for the bottom line. And I said multiple times, that while on some of those things they could be reported, fined or even sued, I didn't want to be the person who shuts business down or gets them in trouble. Instead, I want to educate them, change how the think, get them to understand what it's like to be somebody like me. That's why I started FDAAF: to show people that the ADA is not some abstract requirement, but something that affects people's lives. Because if we don't see the overall benefit of having those solutions in place, we will always find ways to get around it. To single out Donald Trump would be deeply unfair, even if allegations are true. I've seen dozens of ADA inaccessible places in Gainesville, where I live or looking for a technicality allowing them not to comply. Rather than yelling and threatening owners with legal actions I want to help them to grow and to understand.  You always needs to see issues from both sides, besides - I have always said, just like the establishments around me- I'm part of my community. I live here. If they blossom, we all blossom together. And to have someone come around and gain a better understanding of a reason behind a measure is- I think, more meaningful that having them comply with a requirement.

I have great respect for Mr. Trump's movement and what it represents. If he was ever open to it, I'd discuss ADA issues with him, because regardless of the form FDAAF's programs take, at the core what we do is educate- show the ability in disability and the value of inclusion. I started FDAAF as a 501(c)3 nonprofit to deal away with stereotypes and show people with disability as worthy, regular often accomplished human beings. I didn't feel any other organization properly addressed those issues of perception and I wanted to use technologies and new media for a uniquely modern approach.  I'm more interested in what I'm doing and what I'm trying to build. In all honesty, whoever takes it won't affect us much. We are working on something we can't really announce just yet. And to quote Mr Trump. "It's gonna be big" (We hope). So consider donating to Paypal Donation site and remember: we are a 501(c)3 nonprofit, registered to solicit in Florida CH42912