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.

Why Disability And Poverty Still Go Hand In Hand 25 Years After Landmark Law

Photos: Kenneth M. Ruggiano for NPR

Disabled is a word some people hide from.

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


I’m disabled, suck it societal expectations.

(I love) Earlene Brown was an American athlete notable for her careers in track and field and roller games. Earlene’s father was ‘a 6-footer’ and a semipro baseball player with the Negro League in Texas. Her parents separated in 1938 and she followed her mother who joined the second Great Migration of Southern African-Americans to California and moved to Los Angeles. Brown began her participation in track and field activities as a member of LAPD in 1943. She competed and excelled in the basketball throw, which led up to the shot put. Brown joined the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) at 21 in 1956. There, she started weight lifting under the tutelage of Des Koch, while America’s original javelin technician Steve Seymour coached her in shot and discus. Seeing Brown throw, Seymour was convinced she had potential as a gold medalist and decided to send her to the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. Since the Browns could not afford to pay for Earlene’s training and traveling expenses, Brad Pye Jr., am influential sports editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel and African-American community activist, led a campaign that raised funds to support her.
From 1959 on, Brown was associated with the Tennessee State University “Tigerbelles”, whose coach Ed Temple was also the Head Coach of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Track and Field Team. Temple spent time 'getting Earlene in shape’ for the 1960 Games and Earlene then became one of Wilma Rudolph’s closest friends. At the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Brown won the bronze medal in the women’s shot put. In the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Brown – who was short-sighted and wore heavy glasses as a consequence, except when throwing – was “beset by both wind and rain and lost her footing and a chance to get a toehold on the crown”. In 1965 she retired from shot put competition. The same year she became a skater. As a blocker for the New York Bombers Roller Derby team, she was dubbed the “Brown Bomber”. In 1975, after retiring from all athletic endeavors, she returned to her practice as beautician. She died aged 47, on May 1, 1983 in Compton, California. #butchhistory

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One of the areas where explicit “no women allowed” discrimination is still allowed is sports. People defend this by saying no woman could ever play, say, baseball with men (or baseball period) without dying/developing an assortment of severe disabilities a game or three into the season.

Unfortunately, women have played every sport with men professionally, semipro, and amateurly. In the case of American football, all the well-documented cases above high school have had women playing placekickers or punters, positions with little risk of tackling, but it also must be remembered that many of these cases were also decades ago.

There are also sports like horse racing and target shooting where these kinds of justification make no sense whatsoever. But as the variegated attempts to ban women discovered to be intersex show, it’s not about physiology, it’s about belief in a spiritual manliness which grants athleticism. When women are athletically capable, they are scrutinized to see by what means they are secretly masculine. Are they a trans woman? Intersex? Bi or lesbian and not lipstick/femme? Ugly? “Tomboyish”? Once these means have been applied, then things shift towards driving them out of sports.