Living life with a disability and raising children with disabilities is not always easy. Often the problems have nothing to do with the disability itself, but instead with the built environment or the attitudes of people you encounter. Both of these can be changed, while the disability cannot. So I do this because I believe in change.
Change is good when it is well-thought out and in the case of the kind of change I promote, complies with the law and promotes respect, access, usability, opportunity, and self-determination. Pretty words, but what do they really mean?
The law I most often rely on, is the ADA. The American’s with Disabilities Act, signed into law 20 years ago, is a document outlining the civil rights of people with disabilities. When the ADA is followed, people with disabilities have a fighting chance at living independently in the community, being employed, and having a life they value. Michigan also has its own barrier-free law, and there is the Fair Housing Act, IDEA, and many other laws that can come into play.
Respect for people with disabilities is accepting them as experts at what they need. They might not know all the choices available to them, but they do know what meets their needs and what doesn’t.
Access can be good or bad. Obviously, I want to promote good access. Access means you can get through the door. You can get up to the second floor and find your way to a particular office. It doesn’t matter if your disability impacts your vision, hearing, mobility, or thinking – you can get in.
Usability is access, but one step further. Is it reasonable easy? Does it make sense? Is it predictable? A separate unisex accessible restroom is perfectly legal, but if it is in an out of the way place and there is no signage directing you there when you arrive at an inaccessible restroom – what good is it? If you can’t find it – its not usable.
Opportunities can be guaranteed, but you can’t guarantee success. A job can be posted and you can be interviewed, but that doesn’t mean you will be hired. Once you get employed, you might need reasonable accommodations to have the same opportunity to accomplish your job as well as someone else without your disability.
Self-determination is allowing the person/s with disabilities to make their own choices – good or bad. It is giving them the opportunity to be in charge. For some this might mean providing substantial supports and for others it is just a willingness to listen.
I can help you problem-solve your disability issues while committed to these principles and laws.