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  • Writer's pictureericjcarrig

Stop dissing the Abled

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Photo by Becca Lavin on Unsplash

DIY-Abled and its Advocacy for Disabled People

Priya Ray, founder of DIY-abled chatted up Solutions for the Underaffiliated to tell us about how we can bring the disabled into our decisions about city and constriction planning, work, and everyday life to make our society a better place.

She became disabled in 1999 after a spinal cord injury. In rehab, she thought the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), would help her out.

A few provisions to support people with disabilities include:

  • Help accessing the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities.

  • Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees.

  • Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by “public entities” such as state and local government agencies and requires them to make their programs, services and activities accessible to individuals with disabilities

  • Prohibits privately owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, from discriminating against individuals with disabilities; sets minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction; and requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense.

  • Businesses must make "reasonable modifications" to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities.

  • Requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system so individuals with hearing or speech disabilities can communicate over the telephone, plus closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.

  • Public Transportation offered by a state or local government.

Despite all this, Ray discovered that there are significant gaps in the implementation of the ADA and American society still isn’t integrating the needs of the disabled community into everyday life. So after about 10 years, she formed DIY-abled.

DIY-abled educates people about disability, why accessibility is important, and what they can do to help build a more equitable environment for disabled people. Priya and DIY-abled advocate for Americans to change our mindset as we think about disabled people related to:

  • Our physical environment, e.g. sidewalks and public places

  • Education about, and inclusion of, people with disabilities in public and human capital planning

  • Work, where they can contribute to white collar jobs like anyone in the new day of remote work

Legal loopholes and limitations, inclusion, and inertia

The Americans with Disabilities Act has loopholes that limit its impact.

  • A “reasonable accommodation” — a change that accommodates employees with disabilities — cannot cause “undue hardship” which is an "action requiring significant difficulty or expense" when considered in light of a number of factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense.

  • Directs businesses to make "reasonable modifications" to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities, but “reasonable” is left to discussion.

The ADA also has a few limitations.

  • It does not include any provisions related to housing.

  • There are limits on the amount of assets disabled people can have and still received financial benefits from the government.

  • Since Medicaid varies by state, caregiving is not always covered. For example, California pays for caregivers; NC, like most states, does not.

People with disabilities are not included in many human rights discussions. The challenges disabled people face are often lost among debates abut rights related to race, gender and sexuality.

Many, maybe most, disabled people can’t get to a job by nine AM because it takes longer to get ready.

Older generations, which are in power, were not brought up with inclusion and diversity like younger generations.

Experience matters, Unless you are disabled, you don’t realize the challenges being disabled presents. You’re not thinking about curb cuts and broken sidewalks or whether the bathroom is not accessible.

How can we be more accommodating on a number of levels?

Find or demand an app for your community that allows you to submit pictures of broken sidewalks and limited access to businesses — among other things.

  • Improving infrastructure helps everyone anyway.

  • Examples: Asheville App (Asheville, NC); MKE Mobile Action App (Milwaukee, WI)

Study up

  • Learn about and listen for how to change policy that increases the allowable assets and access to caregiving for disabled people in your state.

  • Check out Crip Camp, a 2020 documentary about disabled people. Watch and learn.

  • Explore the rights of disabled people, or lack thereof with Haben Girma.

Business executives

  • Include disabled people in construction and human capital planning. It can help reduce costs and potentially attract motivated and qualified workers.

  • Employ disabled people, especially if remote work is the norm for you. They are just as capable and potentially more motivated.

Get Z! Use your exposure and general acceptance of diversity to challenge older generations to remember the disabled and advocate for accommodations to improve their lives.

We all experience disability, whether it’s a sprained ankle, bedrest after surgery, or not being able to do what you’d like because of pregnancy. It’s frustrating and dehumanizing. Imagine being that way all the time and ignored.

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