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Celebrate #ADA30 July 26, 2020

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BLOG BIZ | ADVOCACY

Editor’s Note:

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Every year at this time I recommend a moving PBS documentary about the Disability Rights Movement called “Lives Worth Living.” This year I’m adding Crip Camp, another film that highlights the disability revolution.

Americans With Disability Act Turns 30 Today

While I am not a sociologist I am an empathic person who respects humanity and believes in doing the right thing. Being born into a couple of marginalized groups allowed me to become uncomfortably familiar with discrimination and exclusion. Even so, because I value human life and deeply appreciate diversity, I refused to allow my circumstances to define who I am. Then later in life, I acquired a disability.

Living with a disability is a life-altering uniquely personalized situation that’s been physically and emotionally draining. Adding to this heaviness, confronting an additional layer of discrimination makes day to day life even more uncertain. Losing my independence has been frustrating and enlightening.

Because of my background, I’ve always known that the world we live in isn’t fair or equitable for everyone. As complex as we are as humans, no one can possibly understand what it’s like to live in the body of another person. Even so, our need to classify everything including people, makes it more difficult for us to see our commonalities. The further we drill down these classifications the lesser the value of those belonging to certain groups like, for instance, people with disabilities.

An Ugly History

Here in the United States, it was against the law to be in public spaces if you were “diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object.” As unbelievable as it might seem “The Ugly Laws” as they came to be known in 1975, were enacted in the late 1860s. These ‘laws‘ encompassed the “poor, the homeless, vagrants, and those with visible disabilities.”

Eugenics, also known as a movement to improve the human race, was a process where people who met certain criteria were sterilized to prevent them from reproducing. The laws were put in place by our government and/or the people who thought they were superior to everyone else.

The Fight For Disability Rights Continues

I think the difference between those who fight for social justice and those who are against it is our view on humanity. People who respect differences and are open to accepting others as they are with empathy understand that “life,” no matter who it belongs to, matters. Even the elitists have no more or less value than those whom they deem less than.

“Around 15 percent of the world’s population, or estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities. They are the world’s largest minority.”* The thing that sets our community apart from other minority groups is we are wholly inclusive. Anyone at any age, social status, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. can become a member at any point in their lives. What’s sad is some of us take the stance that disability rights are ‘not our problem,’ that is until we become disabled. However, being ‘temporarily-abled’ as the majority of us are, makes it our problem.

People with disabilities share many of the same characteristics of our temporarily-abled counterparts, we simply do things a little differently. We’ve come a long way since the ADA became law however the fight for Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation continues.

*Resource: Fact Sheet on Persons with Disabilities

Disability Rights Are Human Rights

So what can you do to become part of the movement?

  • Empathize: I think the most important thing any of us can do, is to check our assumptions at the door. It’s wrong to assume people with disabilities have no value or worse yet, no skills or aspirations.
  • Educate: Increase your understanding of the wide range of disabilities and become more culturally aware and sensitive to the needs of the community. Not every disability is hidden and each person’s story is unique.
  • Embrace: Opening your world to include people with disabilities by volunteering for organizations that support the disability community is a win-win. The organization and the people it supports will benefit from the gift of your time. You will increase your knowledge and build relationships with people who will expand your heart.
  • Respect: No one, wants to be reduced. It’s hard enough being human, so let’s eliminate this idea that disability equals deficit. Learning to appreciate differences and accepting people where they are is at the heart of humanity. If you subscribe to the idea that humanity is imperfect, respecting differences can begin with embracing our own flaws. After all, we are all human.

Let’s continue to strive for inclusivity in all areas of life. Hopefully, there will come a time when we fully embrace our differences without condescension. Until then, celebrate Celebrate #ADA30 with me. What other ways can you think of to impact the disability movement?

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Graffiti: the word “ACT” is vertical colored letters that spell out “Action Changes Things” on a black brick wall.

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Run, Abby, Run!

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ABBY’S CORNER | ADVOCACY

1st Annual Virtual Hope & Possibility 5K/10 Miler

Join Abby as she runs in a virtual walk/run/wheel event sponsored by Achilles International to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The event is scheduled to take place July 18-26 and Abby is running with team “Daring Sisters.” The deadline to put in for a team tee shirt (with the header image of Abby on the back) is today, Friday, June 26. If you’d like to join our team you can register here: events.elitefeats.com/achilles20.

The 30th ANNIVERSARY of the signing of the ADA is on July 26. In recognition of this important milestone Achilles International is teaming up with TD Bank Corporate Office by launching their 1st Annual Virtual Hope & Possibility 5K/10 Miler from July 18th – July 26th.

If you’d like to participate in virtual running, walking or wheeling … we are inviting you to join team “Daring Sisters.” Please email Sarah McManic at Sarah.McManic@gmail.com by June 26th. We plan to do some fun virtual connecting and then celebrate and run/walk/wheel. If you haven’t run/walked before and would like to get started let us know and we can help connect you with guides in your area, etc. So fun!!

Registration

Registration is $10 for people with disabilities, youth 18 and under, veterans, essential workers, and first responders.
General registration is $20.

Image Description:

Bold Blind Beauty’s fashion icon, Abby, is running. She is wearing teal running capris, a black tank with her logo on the front, black & teal sneakers, and her signature explosive hairstyle is windblown.

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Why We Need AIR: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

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Air is vital to sustaining all life. For people with disabilities, AIR is equally important to our survival. In this scenario AIR, symbolizes Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation 3 key elements required to break down barriers.

Why We Need AIR: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

Capitol Crawl

Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation matters. As a person of color, over 50, female, and living with an acquired disability, I know how exclusion feels. Exclusion is one of the reasons social justice has always been important to me.

When you’re born into several marginalized groups there’s a certain amount of uncomfortable familiarity where discrimination and exclusion is concerned. There is a whole other level of discrimination when becoming a member of the disability community that makes day-to-day living a bit more uncertain. Well-meaning friends and family try their best to understand our experience and we try to help them by inviting them into our world. Living with a disability is a uniquely personalized experience for every. single. person. None of us, even those who share the exact same disability will live with it in the exact same way.

Many people aren’t aware that the disability community is the largest minority group in the United States. What makes our minority group different from others is anyone, at any time can become a member. Our community doesn’t care about your social status, education, sexual orientation, age, etc. ANYONE can acquire a disability during their lifespan. As we get older the likelihood of acquiring a disability increases significantly.

While we’ve made strides towards increasing accessibility, inclusion, and representation we still have a long way to go. The fight for equal rights in housing, education, employment, transportation, and more continues as we still face many barriers.

The Fight For Disability Rights

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law.

PBS did a moving documentary in 2011 on the Disability Rights Movement called “Lives Worth Living.” The first time I saw it I felt sadness, anger, and the need to act. People with disabilities share many of the characteristics of our non-disabled counterparts, we simply do things a little differently.

“The “Capitol Crawl” protest for disability rights on March 12, 1990, might have been the single most important catalyst for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 25 29 years ago. The law aimed to end segregation of physically and mentally disabled persons and promised them equal opportunity to participate in society, live independently and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

See Capitol Crawl Image Description

In my blog post, “Observing 25 Years of the ADA” I found this bit which I’ve edited: Our lack of understanding, fear, and inhumanity towards people with disabilities I believe, promotes continuing injustices. It’s no wonder when a life-altering event occurs and we acquire a disability, we have a difficult time adjusting. Coming face to face with our prejudices, then navigating a still-flawed system to protect our new status, can be a difficult transition.  

Sadly, some of us take the stance that disability rights are ‘not our problem,’ that is until we are disabled. However, being ‘temporarily abled’ as the majority of us are, makes it our problem.

Air is free yet there are some who believe not everyone is deserving of AIR. Disabled lives are human lives and all human lives matter.

We’ve come a long way since the ADA became law however the fight for Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation continues.

Featured Image Description:

Striking black and white photo of a silver skeleton key in mid-air aimed at a keyhole.

Capitol Crawl Image:

A group of handicapped people led by 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan, left, crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 12, 1990, to draw support for a key bill now pending in the House that would extend civil rights to disabled persons. The group of about 1,000 people or rode in wheelchairs down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jeff Markowitz)

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Abby’s 14 Job-Seeking Tips For B&VI People

Abby is on the job sitting cross legged in her PJs (gray bottoms & white top with a gray collar) with a teal Abby logo laptop on her lap. Sporting her signature explosive hairstyle, she is wearing a headset with microphone and her white cane is propped up next to her.

Job Hunting Is Hard Work

Image is if a person icon standing and their reflection is the nationally recognized symbol of disability (wheelchair icon). White text says "not every disability is visible"

The numbers of unemployed people with disabilities in the U.S. have always been higher in comparison to those without. Among the blind and visually impaired (B&VI) the numbers are bleaker.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), 75% of the approximately 4 million B&VI persons are unemployed. Compared with 3-4.4% unemployment of our sighted colleagues.

Creating a job search plan can help you overcome many of the hurdles in your path.

Multi-colored post-it notes each containing a word or two like potential, mentor, coaching, ability, strategies, process, customer, guide, tactics, participation, team, projeects, development, etc.

14 Steps To Help You On Your Road To Employment:

  1. Familiarize yourself with Title 1 Employment ADA guidelines.
    • Title 1 essentially prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified people with disabilities throughout the hiring process. “The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including State and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.” For more information see A Guide for People with Disabilities Seeking Employment
  2. Check with your local Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR). OVR counselors have a number of services to offer job seekers.
  3. Research mentors/mentoring programs for PWDs. A quick internet search will yield a number of results. Here are just a few:
  4. Expand your network on LinkedIn.
  5. Clean up your social media accounts. Employers Google potential candidates to check their digital footprint.
  6. To disclose your disability or not is up to you.
  7. Rehearse through mock interviews to become more confident.
  8. Be sure to have both electronic format & hard copies of your résumé.
  9. Do in-depth research on each company. To check out the culture and develop questions.
  10. Get the lay of the land. Prepare ahead of time by visiting the employer’s location.
  11. Dress professionally and leave the perfume at home.
  12. If you plan on taking notes or recording the conversation ask permission first. Or if you prefer, use your braille note taker or other technology to for notetaking.
  13. At the interview stay focused on your qualifications needed to do your job.
  14. My favorite tip is to interview the interviewer. The interview process should be a two-way communication.  Come ready with questions about the company.

Final Thoughts

Job hunting is not for the faint of heart. It will take time, effort, and disappointment. Know your worth, sell yourself, keep moving onward, and above all, keep it professional.