Why We Need A.I.R.: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

Image is described in the body of the post.

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

Why We Need A.I.R.: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

capital crawl
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 A.I.R. 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)


  1. Thanks for this piece. You are absolutely right about the importance of accessibility, inclusion, and representation. And in terms of representation, it’s also important to have representation that doesn’t just turn disabled individuals into just “an inspiration” for getting up and living life.

    1. Hi Brendan, thank you for commenting. You make a good point about being “an inspiration” just for living our lives. Although depending on where people are on their journey what we might consider a simple task could be momentous for someone new to their disability and I think we have to use care in how we treat people. This one topic could make for a blog post on its own.

      1. Yes, this topic can absolutely make a blog post on its own. On one hand, disability in it of itself is not “an inspiration” but on the other hand it is quite significant to learn (or re-learn) how to do certain tasks with their disability.

      2. I agree with you Brendan. While the topic of disability is expansive I think at its root many of the injustices we experience stem from our arrogance as human beings (I know, another huge topic). When any one group or individual thinks they are better than another it spawns many of our social ills. Who are any of us to think that we are more worthy or less worthy than another?

  2. Excellent article. It’s particularly nice to hear someone other than myself pointing out that no one is immune to disability. You’d think that this fact alone would motivate the public to develop a more accurate and positive perspective on disability , but … well, progress is slow. One of the best blind writers I know found out that an editor from her local paper, having been told that they ought to hire her because she’s such a good writer, replied, “Blind people can’t write.” Anyway, Kudos.

    1. Thank you Donna for your kind comment. I know, this one fact boggles my mind but I guess it has to do with the arrogance of being human and thinking we are immune to disabilities, disaster, and even death, that is till it happens to us.

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