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Why We Need AIR: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

Image is described in the body of the post.

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.


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The Guide Dog Memos: Stella

Today’s Edumacation: Working Dog Do Not Pet

A Facebook friend of mine shared Drew Lynch’s (a comedian with a stutter) video on a restaurant experience with his service dog. While Drew is a comic, his message on service dogs is an important one, though often times ignored by many who do not understand the tasks these animals perform allow people with disabilities to live life more independently. (At the bottom of this post is a snippet from the ADA’s requirements on service animals.)

For my blind friends, the text to Stella’s thought bubble (which add to the humor) are directly below the video.


Doggy thought bubbles (upper right text only):

1. Clean comedy here.
2. No, we weren’t.
3. With the mostest?
4. Think this through.
5. I need a throne.
6. Shots fired.
7. No you weren’t.
8. Zzz
9. Huh?
10. At least I don’t have a stutter.
11. Blah. Blah. Blah.
12. False
13. No F***s Given.
14. Duh.
15. Sorry not Sorry.
16. Not *whatever* you want.
17. I will kill you.
18. Trained to kill.
19. Damn straight.
20. Hired assassin.
21. I’m not.
22. *siiiiigh*

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

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Observing 25 Years of the ADA

Protecting the Rights of People With Disabilities

15999939-equal-opportunitiesSunday, July 26 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA requires governments and programs on the local, state, and federal levels to be accessible, and that reasonable accommodations and modifications be provided in the workplace, restaurants, stores, public transit, communication, etc.

It’s incomprehensible to me that prior to the ADA‘s implementation basic civil rights like education, housing, and employment, were denied to untold millions of people based solely on their disabilities.

Up until the signing of the ADA in 1990, the fight for equal access was a long and arduous journey. If it weren’t for the many years of unfathomable, grueling work of dedicated change-making activists, the ADA would not exist today.

I find it interesting that as one of the largest minority groups in the U.S., even with the ADA in place, the struggle for equality for people with disabilities is ongoing. Could it be because the majority of us are not, and perhaps never will be affected by disabilities, that the insensitivity and mistreatment of people with disabilities continues?

Icon of a person walking with a white cane

Nix the Negativity defines disability as a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job. Ouch, if I thought the definition hurt here are a few words from the thesaurus: defect, impairment, incompetency, inability, incapacity, detriment. Looking at these words I can’t imagine anyone anxiously awaiting to be identified by any of them.

Our lack of understanding, fear, and inhumanity towards people with disabilities I believe, promotes the continuing injustices. It’s no wonder then, that when a life altering event occurs within our lives which renders us disabled, we have a difficult time adjusting.

Coming face to face with our prejudices, encountering the projected fears placed on us from those without disabilities, then navigating a still-flawed system to protect our new status, the transition can be most difficult. As reasonable thinking individuals, for some of us to admit that we view people with disabilities as defective while at the same time recognizing our intolerance, ignorance, and supposed superiority is a bitter pill to swallow.

Awareness to Understanding to Inclusion to Acceptance

The subject of disability is extremely complex because as many of us know, disabilities are not always physical, mental or visible. Further, for those of us with hidden disabilities throwing in the “do I disclose” or “not disclose” can have many implications.

Though legally we are protected by the law regardless of our choice, if we do not disclose then come up against a situation where open disclosure would have left no room for doubt, this issue becomes complicated. On the flip side if we do disclose we can open ourselves up to the very discrimination that we are protected against.

International Symbol of Accessibility Icon of a person in a wheelchair in motion
The Accessible Icon Project

It’s hard to believe that it was only back in 1986 when the outcome of a report, Toward Independence, indicated federal civil rights legislation was needed to protect people with disabilities. To think it wasn’t that long ago when many people with disabilities were institutionalized, abused, and even and put through forced (eugenics sterilization)  procedures is incredible. Forced sterilization by the way continued in the 1990’s through the 2000s ( and Center for Investigative Reporting).

Dehumanizing is the word that comes to mind when I think of the intentional and sometimes unintentional mistreatment of people with disabilities. I’ve had friends who use wheelchairs tell me just how irksome it is when people will not speak with them directly, rather they talk to the person who is with them about them.

Though we have our discriminations what we have to understand is disabilities do not discriminate. They can occur at any point in life, for any reason and can take on many forms including but not limited to psychiatric, physical, learning, blindness and deafness.

Pushing Forward

The misconceptions concerning disabilities and the limitations placed on people with disabilities abound. If you’ve never seen the movie on the disability movement, Lives Worth Living, I guarantee it will either alter or increase your understanding about disabilities and the people who live with them.

The people in the film are neither defective nor incompetent. They were clearly passionate for change and they made it happen.

Years ago I was thrust into advocacy within the disability arena on behalf of my son and my mother. I never considered at the time that I would one day need to be covered under the ADA but I’ll tell you what, I’m so thankful that it exists.

It’s true, we still have a lot of work yet to do. With the ever evolving advances in technology, we have to be mindful of those who may not have equal access to information; we have to remain vigilant to the point of changing legislation to set new policy direction. Like our predecessors in the film Lives Worth Living we must continue to advance quality of life and equal opportunity for all.

“Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness, those are life-altering lessons.” ~Jessica Lange