Disability 101: Does one voice make a difference?
January 3, 2010
I’ve been plugging away writing this column for the Summit Daily for a little over two years. My purpose has always been clear in my mind. My goal has been to write directly to people who don’t have any disabilities. They don’t get it. They don’t get what people with disabilities need and want. That lack of understanding makes an enormous difference in the quality of life for people with disabilities.
I am hoping with my columns to educate people who have no disabilities so they will finally get it. We have this law called the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, that is designed to prevent discrimination toward people with disabilities. However, in my experience, the biggest problem for people with disabilities is not a lack of ramps or elevators or whatever. The biggest problem is people’s attitudes. The attitudes of the able-bodied are the biggest barriers of all. Because they don’t get it. They don’t understand.
This lack of understanding can have enormous consequences for a person with a disability. It can affect an employer’s willingness to hire a person with a disability. Then that person with a disability may be unable to obtain a decent job and is forced to live in perpetual poverty, relying on an inadequate social security check. Or, when it takes that person two years to get on social security, that person may even wind up homeless.
All because employers don’t get it and don’t want to hire people with disabilities.
So the consequences can be enormous. But the consequences can also be just daily, annoying things that happen every time a person with a disability goes out in public. Recently the annoying thing I am dealing with is that, because I use a wheelchair, everyone seems to want to touch me. I am continually patted on the shoulder.
Please don’t touch me if I don’t know you. I am not a child to be patted. If you would not touch an able-bodied person in a particular social situation, don’t touch me!
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So I keep plugging away with my columns. One voice in one small town newspaper. Does one voice make a difference?
I think it’s made a difference in Summit County. When I go to the grocery store or elsewhere in our community, I am treated with more respect than I was before my column started. I am treated like an average person. You guys are getting it. Thank you, Summit County.
But when I’m down on the Front Range, moving around in those communities, I’m back to square one. They don’t get it. Everyone’s touching me and doing other bizarre things.
My column has a wider reach than Summit County. Although the Summit Daily News is a small town newspaper, it has an international audience thanks to all these ski resorts around here. Add in the Internet, and we are starting to get around.
I’ve been contacted by people all over the U.S., as well as Australia and the UK, who have been interested in my column. There have been so many reprints of my columns, and links to my columns on a variety of websites, that I can’t keep up with them all. (If you want to see some of them, check out my website at http://www.wheelsonthesummit.com.
Some days I feel like, “Wow, we are really getting out there.” Other days, when I continue to see blatant discrimination or even when I am just continually being touched by strangers, I wonder if my one voice is making a difference.
Thanks to the Summit Daily for letting my voice be heard.