There are so many important things going on regarding the disability community right now; decisions that are trying to be dictated to us, with no input from those are are going to be most directly effected by the changes. disABILITY LINK is a Center for Independent Living (CIL) and is both consumer run and cross disability. What that means is that our office is staffed by people with disabilities and we work with everyone with a disability, whether it’s mental, physical, sensory or something else; we are open to everyone. This makes for a very unique work environment and also makes a very empowering experience for our visitors and consumers.
In this political climate is it very important that all people with disabilities come together and effect change on the barriers that impact all of our lives: employment, housing, healthcare, attitudes, transportation and access to our community. These are items that, regardless of your disability, you will encounter. Organizations like the National Federation of the Blind, National Association of the Deaf, MS Society, Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association and the Peer Support and Wellness Center are all wonderful organizations that are peer run and make a positive impression on their consumers. They are organizations that are focused on specific disabilities and offer a chance for peers to come together and support one another, whether it’s sharing information, experiences or resources for living successfully in the community. It’s very to become isolated from the rest of the community as a whole. We are powerful when speaking individually, or even as a group with our respective organizations, the National Federation of the Blind, for instance, has a very powerful presence and a voice that holds authority, the same can be said for National Association of the Deaf and many of the other groups I’ve mentioned, but imagine how much more powerful these voices would be if we could all come together and speak as one on our common barriers? Inaccessibility, whether it’s a lack of Braille, large print, sign language interpreter or steps in an entryway cannot and should not be tolerated. When we don’t focus on universal design and access we are left with the kind of piecemeal accessibility of buildings you see today: some doors have Braille, some buildings require wheelchair users to enter from the side or back, most door knobs can easily be grasped. It’s “sort of” accessible for some but not entirely accessible for all.
Recently in Georgia there has been legislation that called for Vocational Rehabilitation to be moved from the Department of Labor to the Department of Human Services. The disability community has been informed that this will not lead to a disruption of services or a reduction of services, but we aren’t really getting the whole picture. Individual advocates and groups have been pressuring the governor and policy makers to keep our community in mind when these kind of changes are being implemented, but the problem is that it’s many voices instead of one unified front with many organizations signed on. Perhaps I’m being too optimistic, but I really feel that we could really get things done if we galvanized on one or many issues and tackle our barriers as a unified force. What are your opinions?