As the daughter of two parents with disabilities, I grew up very aware of a world that was not made for disabled people to experience in the same way as non-disabled people. For someone with a disability, it can be more arduous to navigate new places, intimidating in relationships, or stressful in work and social situations. It shouldn’t have to be. In the United States, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was passed in 1990 to expand opportunities and access for Americans with disabilities: to ensure equal employment opportunities, prohibit discrimination by state and local governments, and require places of public accommodation to provide basic accessibility to facilities.
In the 25+ years since the ADA was passed, the United States has made great strides toward ending discrimination and improving accessibility, beyond just expanding the number of handicap parking spots in from of your local store.
However, the U.S. Access Board in 2014 began to update and develop a new era of guidelines for elements of American life that exist back when the ADA was initially passed. These include electronic and information technology, telecommunications products and services, public rights-of-way, and medical diagnostic equipment, all of which could further level the playing field for Americans with disabilities.
So there’s a lot of work to be done so that everyone, disabled or not, can experience the world in equal ways. I don’t have a physical or mental disability, so I can’t speak on behalf of those who do; I know that some people prefer not to call themselves handicapped, some don’t like the term disabled, and most don’t want you to pity them! Many people live what they’d call perfectly “normal” lives, while others admit that life can be a struggle at times. Just like people without disabilities, they come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and skills. I want the world to treat them equally, but to also be considerate and aware of their needs.
Additional resources to learn more:
Lecture by Hansel Bauman, architect at Gallaudet University (university for the deaf and hard of hearing), on DeafSpace Architecture
Lecture by Damon McLeese, on his life’s work helping disabled artists find their artistic genius and running a gallery that features their work.
Please note there are hundreds of organizations and nonprofits dedicated to all kinds of disabilities, from blindness to paralysis to autism and more. You can search online to find one that suits your needs or interests, or call your state representatives. Their constituent services representatives might be able to provide recommendations.