Sunday, October 29, 2006

Disability: The Final Frontier

I am currently reading Juan William's book Enough (The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America). Shortly, I will review this book, which I quite like. However, reading it has reminded me once again of the disability movement (or rather the lack of it.)

When I think on the major civil rights movements in the United States, like most people, I can concretely think of events and people to match these movements. The African-Americans have King and Malcolm X; women have sufferage, Susan B. Anthony, Steinem, and many others, gays have strong groups (and stars like Madonna to back them) and a parade every year.

Nowhere in the the "disability culture" are there simuliar groups and people with disabilities are the final minority in America without a strong voice. Yes, there has been progress made. In my mind, the most important sucess for people with disabilities has been the IDEA law. "The IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to make sure that children with disabilities had the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children." This law has served as an important starting point for all children to accomplish having a life to the fullest of their abilities.

Then, in 1992, Bush No. 1 signed the American with Disabilites Act. To the best of my slight knowledge, this was supposed to do two things:

1. Provide physical access to public spaces to people who use wheelchairs. Well, we won't even go into that because we know THAT didn't happen!
2. Give people with disabilities a safeguard in the workplace. The idea was that (like people of different race and gender) people wouldn't be able to discriminate against you because of the fact that you have a "disablitity." I'll go into my own experience later, but let's look at the figures for a moment.

I'm not a fine one for reading charts (can you say stupid poet?), but here is a figure from In 2005, 14,893 ADA cases were filed. 60% were found "no reasonable cause." 5.6% were found "reasonable cause." Deduction: the ADA is impossible to prove. Also, just to let you know, I was once told that if the company offers you a different job with the same pay -they're off the hook. This is why, in Boston in 1995, Whole Foods was able to get a way with discrimination. I applied for a job in the vitamin department and was told I couldn't do it. I was told that the customers wouldn't be able to understand my speech. They got a way with it by offering me a job in the stock room (I guess I wouldn't have to talk there). I didn't take it. More soon.

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