Segregation and the Disabled Community

I don’t usually post politically motivated content but every once in awhile something strikes a nerve with me and I feel the need to bring it to light. This is one of those times. I often find myself in a tough place of trying to get people who are not like me to see what it’s like to be me. Trying to explain the hardships of life with a disability to a person who does not have one is like trying to explain what gumbo tastes like to someone who has no tastebuds. Most things are best described after the experience. Sadly I don’t always have that luxury with others. So I am often forced to draw parallels between the life I live and experiences that are common to other people around me.

Ok so here’s the meat of my post this morning. Yesterday I came across this sign:

handicap entrance at rear

Most likely you react to this sign in a positive way. It’s intentions are good, but to me this sign is a slap in the face. Why, as a person with a disability, must I use an entrance on the opposite side of a building than my able-bodied counterparts? Why can’t I do things in a similar way to others? That sign seems awfully similar to this one in my opinion:

colored seating sign

Before I go any further, let me say that the struggles African American and other minorities have faced in this country are far greater than any persecution I have ever faced. I am very thankful that I have never been beaten or arrested for being disabled. But I do see some similarities between the things minorities and people with disabilities have encountered in the past and currently still encounter.

Let me give you some more examples throughout history:

1850s to 1890s
The beginning of centralized services in institutions. The idea is to protect people with disabilities from society so people are placed in institutions.

1900s
People with disabilities are segregated. Laws are passed to forbid them from marrying. Warehousing in institutions continues.

1910s
People with disabilities are sterilized so they will not have children. The law allows this. Institutions do nothing about rehabilitation. Dehumanization and stigmatization continue.

1940s
People with disabilities are put to death in Germany – along with Jews, criminals, “politicals”, gypsies, and people said to be antisocial.

(Found @ http://www.ddc.wv.gov/Training/PartnersinPolicymaking/PIPCurriculum/Pages/HistoryofServices.aspx)

Granted, I’m an adaptable person, but I shouldn’t have to adapt as much as I am and in the ways I am.Yes we have come a long way to help people with disabilities, but we need to be doing better than we are doing. Even the Americans with Disabilities Act, which paved the way for people with disabilities to have opportunities they did not have before, has many flaws and needs revision. The ADA as it stands right now allows buildings built before its enactment to remain unchanged and thus inaccessible to those who have a physical disability. This is because owners do not want to pay the money to renovate their facilities. This is still no excuse not to change. The right thing to do is change things regardless of difficulty so that all who want to can use them. Until we get to that point people with disabilities will always be discriminated against.

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