If you have a disability in the U.S., you’re twice as likely to be poor as someone without a disability. You’re also far more likely to be unemployed. And that gap has widened in the 25 years since the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted.
“Every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom,” President George H.W. Bush said when he signed the bill into law on July 26, 1990.
The ADA banned discrimination based on disability and was intended to ensure equal opportunity in employment — as well as government services and public accommodations, commercial facilities and public transportation.
But it hasn’t always worked that way, especially when it comes to expanding economic opportunity for the 58 million Americans with physical and mental disabilities.
You just have to look at what 27-year-old Emeka Nnaka of Tulsa, Okla., goes through on an average day to understand some of the reasons why.
Six years ago, Nnaka was playing semipro football for the Oklahoma Thunder when he went to make a tackle and broke his neck. He was paralyzed from his chest down. Today, Nnaka gets around in a motorized wheelchair, and has limited use of his hands.
But he still has big dreams. He plans to finish his undergraduate education this summer and start working on a master’s degree in human relations. He wants to become a licensed counselor, and hopes someday to have a home and a family he can support.
It’s a word we need to take back and not fear. If you feel better using euphemisms for yourself that’s all well and good but the only thing wrong with the word disabled is what you are comfortable believing is wrong with it. The way I see it, the word disabled doesn’t take away from us unless we refuse to add to it.
I’m a father.
I’m a husband
I’m working towards a PhD
I’m working on promoting self-advocacy and activism
I’m working on a documentary about the fallout from the autism wars
I’m an ex semipro football player
I’m a former member of the United States Army