Disability 101 – Disabled: our largest minority
July 5, 2009
Who is my audience?
A year and a half later and here I am still writing about disabilities and disability awareness and etiquette. Why?
Some people have asked, “Sandy, why don’t you get your column in some other publication that has a larger readership of people with disabilities? There’s just not that many people with disabilities who read the Summit Daily News.”
If you are asking this, you’ve missed the point. My audience is
not people with disabilities. My audience is people who don’t have disabilities. Why?
Over one in five Americans, approximately 54 million people, have some type of disability. People with disabilities are the largest minority group in our nation. It is the only minority group that any person can join at any time. You are only one car accident away from a disability yourself.
Some 30 percent of our nation’s families have one or more members with a disability. Of Americans who are 65 or older, 50 percent have a disability.
Disability is not unusual. Disability is not rare. It’s common, and there are more people than you think who have a disability. Sometimes those disabilities are hidden. Sometimes you just don’t know about them.
The number one barrier that people with disabilities report that they experience is the attitudes of people without disabilities. Think about that for a second.
People who use wheelchairs are not saying that their biggest barriers are stairs or curbs. They are saying that their biggest barrier is the attitudes of people without disabilities.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have speech impairments are not saying their biggest barrier is communication. They are saying their biggest barrier is the attitudes of people without disabilities.
People who are blind
or have a visual impairment are not saying their biggest barrier is inaccessible websites. They are
saying their biggest barrier is the attitudes of people without disabilities.
People who have learning disabilities and people who have cognitive disabilities are not saying that their biggest barrier is difficulty reading signs or menus. They are saying their biggest barrier is the attitude of people without disabilities.
The largest minority group in America is asking that the majority stop and pay attention. This column
is for people without disabilities. Those of us with disabilities are saying that we have something to
say to people without disabilities. We are saying that a change is needed.
We are saying that it is time to offer the same civil rights and the same consideration that other minority groups are receiving to the largest minority group in this nation, to the group that you are only one car
accident away from joining.
This is not a column for people with disabilities to learn how to deal with their disabilities. This is not a column about medical considerations or where to get adaptive doodads. This is a column in which people with disabilities are reaching out to people without disabilities to ask them to please pay attention. We have something to say. We want to be heard.
If you have a disability and are reading this and your family member, friend, co-worker, doctor, service provider, teacher, bus driver or boss doesn’t get it, hand them a copy of this column and encourage them to read it.
To all those that think Disability 101 is only for people with disabilities, keep in mind that people with disabilities don’t need a disability awareness and etiquette column. We are already quite aware and pretty darn good with etiquette. It is people without disabilities that need a little more awareness and some better etiquette.