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
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.
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)“