Why Disability Matters: 4 Reasons Why We Need to Have This Discussion, Now!

[In the picture: a blind girl, using a white cane, and a sighted girl walk alongside each other on a street].

This is our first post in a new blog series, Inclusion for All, focused on providing critical insights on issues surrounding disabilities. This post was written by Hillary Dolinsky.

1 in 5 people has a disability in the United States, according to the latest Census data. With a ratio like that, surely the needs of over 56 million people are at the top of mind in today’s policies, programs, and services…right? Although gains have been made over the last 100 years, we’re here to say that we still have more to do. Disability matters in every sector, in every region, and in every person—and the conversation needs to continue.

Why do we need to keep talking about disability?

  1. Disability is all encompassing—it doesn’t just refer to the physical body. Some disabilities can be seen with the eye or heard with the ear. It may be easier to notice if someone has a disability because they are using a wheelchair or a cane, or if they are communicating in sign language. Still, there are other types of disabilities, often hidden from plain sight, that need to be included when we talk about accessibility. Mental health is just as important and relevant as physical health.
  2. Even if a disability policy exists, much is left open to interpretation. Many think that because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exists, we no longer need to advocate for change. Even with the ADA and other disability policies in place, enforcement of these policies is not consistent. There is a lot of gray area surrounding disability policy, with many businesses, employers, and facilities complying with the bare minimum instead offering inclusion for all. The ADA website itself says, “the ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.” We need to continue to demand clarity, not compromise.
  3. Society tends to be reactive to disabilities, not proactive. If a disability advocate is not present, how can we guarantee that the needs of people with disabilities will be included in a decision? Society has shown us that it is easier to accommodate people with disabilities after the fact, instead of anticipating needs ahead of time. If we were really concerned about the needs of 20% of the population, we would make schools, buildings, transportation, and technology accessible right from the beginning – not as an “add on” to these necessities of modern living.
  4. People with disabilities are still degraded on public platforms. The fact is that we live in a country where a presidential candidate can openly and childishly mock a reporter with a visible disability and win an election—validating that there are still people who either find this kind of behavior acceptable, or feel that discrimination of people with disabilities is not enough of a priority to oppose it. People with disabilities are still abused, with examples of live footage of such abuse being shared across media platforms. Advocacy is still needed, and not everyone everywhere recognizes the value, potential, and contributions of people with disabilities.

Our blog series will continue to talk about disability issues. Stay tuned for more inclusive, thought-provoking, and critical insights from Sara and Hillary.

Do you have more examples of why we need to keep disabilities a priority? Share in the comments—we want to hear from you!