1. Inadequate New Construction
Let’s start with the basics. I cannot understand that 31 years after the passage of the ADA, people are still fighting about steps in new construction: counters that are too high, automatic door openers placed where they cannot be reached or missing altogether, or structures that are simply inaccessible to a variety of individuals with disabilities. There is no excuse for this.
2. Travel Woes
I want to be able to fly like everybody else and not have to worry that when I arrive at my destination, I will be stuck in the airport with a pile of broken parts. It’s time for the airline industry to step up and not treat people with disabilities like we don’t matter.
While we are at it, let’s add a bathroom that everyone can use. I am positive that non disabled people would love to use a bathroom in a plane that doesn’t feel as if they are peeing in a closet.
3. Targeted Health Care
COVID highlighted the health care disparities for individuals with disabilities, but this problem long predated the virus. We need accessible health care, period. imaging machines, exam tables, and much, much more. If an individual with a disability needs reasonable accommodations when they arrive at a hospital, urgent care center, or a doctor’s office, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Currently, one in four individuals have a disability and soon it will be one in three. The current medical paradigm is not working. Issues related to disability should be routinely taught in medical schools to adequately serve this large and growing population. It is time to change the game and get with it.
I don’t want to add too much to my wish list in one year and be placed on the naughty list, but it would be great to have affordable care for us as well. Society is under the impression that healthcare is 100% free for us. That’s not the case, at least in America.
4. Remote work
Working from home should not be treated as a reasonable accommodation. COVID showed us that vast swaths of work can be done remotely, and done just as well. After all, telework is the model for the future. Individuals with disabilities may have different needs in their remote work sites. But that does not mean that quality or quantity of work will be less. Available telework should be the rule and not the exception. And when an individual with a disability wants or needs to go to the office, it should be accessible as well, with reasonable accommodations readily available.
The employment rate for individuals with disabilities is horrific and unacceptable no matter where you live. Industry needs to tap into this pool of talent. Expanding telework will help address these disparities in employment rates.
5. Health Coverage
The effort to bring individuals with disabilities into the employment sector is hampered by outdated income roles to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Many individuals like me want to work. A large proportion of my income would go to healthcare needs. In essence, I am being penalized for working. This is an out-of-date model and as we change as a country and focus on health care policy, the disincentive for education and work must be recognized and embraced. It is no longer 1965.
I have to be careful to not earn too much money for fear I will lose out on disability coverage. Then society wonders why the disabled population is considered one of the poorest minorities in our country. It’s not that we don’t want to work, it’s that our health care coverage stops us from working. Policy changes need to be updated sooner than later.
6. Diversity Initiatives
Diversity, inclusion, and equity (D.I.E) initiatives are a priority for industry and government. However, in many cases disability is not included. This baffles me. There is intersectionality for people with disabilities and many groups that are part of D.I.E initiatives. Do not forget us. Disability must be a part of these initiatives.
7. Hospitality Weaknesses
The hospitality industry is lagging horrifically in their efforts to accommodate individuals with disabilities, and I don’t get it. They are leaving millions of dollars on the table in excluding us. I want to arrive at my hotel and have my reservation accurate; not a room that has a bathtub when I requested a roll in shower, not enough space on the side or height of the bed to get in, and no availability of a wheelchair-accessible room because it was given to someone else.
And while I’m on this topic, the hospitality industry should go over and above what the ADA and other regulations around the world require. Embrace universal design. Do it from the beginning. All segments of society will benefit.
8. Ask us!
Advances in technology have greatly assisted individuals with disabilities. However, in many cases the developers are clearly not consulting with the correct population of end users to ensure that the technology is truly accessible to them. Bring us to the table and let us provide input during the design phase.
For example, captions should not be an afterthought when it comes to streaming media, zoom and other platforms, and telemedicine; they should exist in every software program and technology. There are no quick fixes when production is completed. You should do it right from the beginning.
This list is not all-encompassing, but it’s enough for now. Our society is capable of everything on this list. Let’s get busy, advocates get out there! Industry, wake up! Government, enact rules, enforce current policy and make new policy to keep up with society. It is long overdue. The world of the future is being developed now. I don’t want to have the same wishes on the 35th anniversary of the ADA. Santa, please be good to me. I deserve it, along with my brothers and sisters in the disability community around the world.