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Rights of the Disabled
The Rights of People with Disabilities
Many people with disabilities have been fighting for equal opportunities and equal treatment. Discrimination against people with disabilities was at an overall high but, in the last ten years new laws have been passed and equality is one step closer. Why disability rights? One man tells a story on why people with disabilities need rights and laws to get the same opportunities.
Paul had been active in progressive politics for more than 25 years. He became disabled in 1983. He said he had no awareness of discrimination against people with disabilities. He did not know what he had to face due to his increasing physical problems but also due to the attitude of American society in general. He began using a wheelchair in 1986. "When I started down my street to check out the neighborhood, it came as a rude awakening to find just one curb cut on my block and that of the other three corners at that intersection the only one with a curb cut was located diagonally across the intersection". (Paul. P.1) It was clear that if he was going to explore the neighborhood, he wasn’t going to determine a path through it.
After finding out that the city curbs in his neighborhood were not suitable for "wheelchair travel" he decided to take a longer journey. This
time to a store a dozen blocks away hoping that the city curbs would be fit for wheelchair users The shopping center was located on a main street and
he assumed there would be curb cuts at each corner along the way. He was wrong! His journey was three or four times longer than it should have been because each time he wanted to cross the street he had to go as far into the block as it took to find an unblocked driveway. He began to feel like a "wheelchair wimp" because he did not want to zigzag down the street to get to his destination or to roll down the middle of the street like others did. Paul had a break through "disability consciousness". It happened in 1991 when his disability had progressed to the degree that he was no longer able to work.
"How could he see himself as a valuable member of society if he could no longer work"? That was one question he asked himself before feelings of worthlessness took hold. He realized that would be his first step into the disability right movement. He started to ask himself about his earliest political beliefs specifically what he believed all people were entitled to -food, shelter, medical care, education, and equal treatment.
He was on his way! Strangers have patted him on the head telling me how brave I am, as he sat minding his own business "you think you have
problems"? To many of the people around him the real person has van vanished only to be replaced by a stereotype. "Has anyone ever told you that you would have to ride the freight elevator to the basement to use the bathroom in a public building? Ever get told you would have to go around the back door to come in or that there was no way at all you could get in? He no longer gets out much and is unable to go to work. What he realized after living with the hardships of having a disability is that people with disabilities can not stay silent. Paul encourages people to read about disability laws and the rights of people with disabilities.
Paul writes "do you know what people with disabilities want"? Nothing special, nothing unusual. We want to be able to attend our neighborhood school, to use the public library, to go to the movies, to get on a city bus and go shopping downtown or to visit friends and family across town or across the country. We want to be able to get into our neighborhood polling place to vote with everyone else on election day. We want to be able to get married, to work so we can provide for our children. We want high quality, affordable medical care. We want to be seen as real people, as a part of society,
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Disability, Social theories, Special education, Disability rights movement, Ableism, Developmental disability, Americans with Disabilities Act, Disability in China
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