Dear People of the World,
You need to start caring about disability. Not tomorrow. Not when it affects you or a loved one. Today. Right now. Disability is very important, and I’m not saying that because I’m a person with a disability. I’m saying that as someone who knows what it is like to go from having a virtually nonexistent or very mild disability to having a severe disability where my everyday life is affected due to the lack of accessibility in the world. I say it as someone who knows that it will affect you sooner or later, so why not do something today?
I hear so many excuses about why disability is not important. Most of those people that are saying this are people who do not have a disability or do not have anyone in their family who is dealing with a disability or at least one that they see firsthand. Oftentimes, people do not seem to care about disability until it affects them in some way. Waiting until then makes it too late to have the kind of impact needed to ensure your life is not changed so drastically. You need to be caring about disability now. Invariably it will affect you in some way, at some point in your life. That is a fact.
You can believe me or not, but statistics show that in the United States alone disability is much more prevalent than people think. According to the Census Bureau, 56.7 million Americans had some form of disability in 2010. That is 19% of the population or nearly one in five Americans, overall. Further examining the statistics, the Social Security Administration states that a little over 1 in 4 of the current population of 20-year-olds in the workforce will develop a disability before they retire.
The Council of Disability Awareness posted this tidbit:
The following statistics come from CDA’s PDQ disability risk calculator:
- A typical female, age 35, 5’4″, 125 pounds, non-smoker, who works mostly an office job, with some outdoor physical responsibilities, and who leads a healthy lifestyle has the following risks:
-A 24% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during her working career; with a 38% chance that the disability would last 5 years or longer, and with the average disability for someone like her lasting 82 months.
-If this same person used tobacco and weighed 160 pounds, the risk would increase to a 41% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer.
- A typical male, age 35, 5’10″, 170 pounds, non-smoker, who works an office job, with some outdoor physical responsibilities, and who leads a healthy lifestyle has the following risks:
-A 21% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during his working career; with a 38% chance that the disability would last 5 years or longer, and with the average disability for someone like him lasting 82 months.
If this same person used tobacco and weighed 210 pounds, the risk would increase to a 45% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer.
A sample of factors that increase the risk of disability: Excess body weight, tobacco use, high risk activities or behaviors, chronic conditions such as; diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, anxiety or depression, frequent alcohol consumption or substance abuse.
Even without risk factors, there is a great chance that you will be affected by disability, whether personally or through your familial relationships. Waiting until it happens to you makes it much harder, because now you’re going to have to be fighting for essential things like accessibility, inclusion, and even acknowledgment. Society treats people with disabilities very differently, and overnight you will go from having some kind of voice, to having that voice removed in many aspects of your life.
The truth is, many of us with disabilities find the lack of accessibility and inclusion to be way more disabling than our actual disability. I have to think about disability every single day, and it’s not because I have a disability. It is because I have to plan my entire day around a not very accessible world. I have to prepare myself towards being treated differently by people within society, because so many people look down on us simply for having a disability.
This has to change, and you need to help change it. As people with disabilities, we need allies in the world who do not have disabilities. We need these people to be speaking up, and sharing our message, because tomorrow it could be them, fighting for these rights, alongside us.
What you see when you “see” disability is our wheelchairs, canes, crutches, and other medical devices. You see some of us with bodies you would call broken, not normal, contorted, or I have even heard people say, that person with a disability looks “fucked up”. What you don’t see is:
–how much many of us struggle to get basic accommodations
–how many people have invisible disabilities and invisible struggles
–how many buildings refuse to accommodate by making their buildings accessible to multiple disabilities
–how exclusionary the arts can be to people with disabilities
–the horrible names people call us and the horrible way people treat us – even complete strangers
–the pity inducing stares or even worse the pity filled comments
–the multitude of misconceptions people have about disabilities
–the lack of access to quality education simply because of a disability
–how many streets lack curb cuts, how few transportation options are truly accessible around the country
–the lack of access to quality medical care, and the high number of doctor’s offices that are not accessible
–the lack of job opportunities offered to people with disabilities, even those of us with an education – as many an 80% of people with disabilities are unemployed in the United States currently
–the discrimination we face when it comes to jobs, housing, getting married, raising a family, adoption, keeping our children, and a plethora of others obstacles non-disabled people do not face
–how hard it is to be heard by government entities, the media, or even people around us when we bring up issues that affect us because of our disability
–how many people call people with disabilities names and tell us to get over it for speaking out about the way we are treated or the lack of access we have when we have a disability
–the high level of self shame, which often causes people with disabilities to discriminate against other people with disabilities
–how much more expensive it can be to live with a disability
We face so many challenges because we have disabilities that really have nothing to do with having a disability. We face a world that looks down on disability. Many of us are capable of so much more, and for those of us that are not, we still deserve the same respect and decency given to any other human being.
You need to think about disability now because as soon as you have a disability these become your issues, your concerns, and your problems.
It could happen tomorrow. It could happen when you are older. For most of us, it will happen. You just don’t know when, why, how, or what kind of disability, so why don’t you start caring now about all people with disabilities, and help us to improve the world, so when it is your time, you don’t have to deal with all the obstacles currently in our way.
With utmost respect,
Your future comrade in crippleness,