There’s no way to get around it, we are living in some pretty crazy times right now. Many people with disabilities are and will continue to be impacted more disproportionately due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus does have more severe long-term implications for those with existing respiratory issues. Many people with ambulatory disabilities may have more difficulty navigating the crowded grocery stores, as well as finding what is left on the shelves. As this virus spreads to more and more people, it will become increasingly necessary to self-isolate to prevent further spread of, or catching the bug. It is certainly a confusing time at best, but it’s also an opportunity to make the best of any situation we are presented. This is a skill people with disabilities have much more practice at than most of the population.
When we get to a point of using our free time where Netflix and Facebook just seem to be getting too mundane, we have the ability to pursue productive activities. Don’t forget that creative endeavors are great ways to pass time. Paint, sketch, practice music. If art isn’t your thing, I would like to submit my recommendations for things to do related to Civil Rights for people with disabilities.
Educate Yourself on All Things ADA
You cannot enforce rights that you are unaware of. The crux of what we try to help with at the RMADAC is to understand rights and responsibilities under the ADA. Specifically, we have several online learning modules on our website, and they are free. I suggest starting with the general overview of the ADA and then cherry-picking topics that appeal to your curiosity. It may very well be a case where the more you learn, the more questions you have. If this happens, feel free to email or call our center and we will be more than happy to explain anything that comes to mind. Once you are educated, you are empowered.
Get Familiar with Your Resources
The RMADAC is happy to be your primary resource on information and guidance on the ADA, but we are not the only resource available for your accessibility needs. As the ADA only covers employment
s, state/local government, public spaces (businesses), and telecommunications, we specialize in those topics. Housing, air travel, advocacy, and financial assistance are all valid areas of disability rights and education but are generally not covered by the ADA. You may certainly contact us to help figure out who to contact on the previous subjects, but please understand that we can only speak to the ADA itself and we will always do our best to help you find resources outside of our wheelhouse. We are open and working during these odd times.
Contact Your Law Makers
The people we elect to congress are our representatives who have a voice to impact our laws. Aside from a sunny afternoon with loved ones, nothing in life is perfect. In my role at the ADA center, I have heard several opinions on what’s wrong with the ADA. All these points of view are completely valid. The only problem is that we at the RMADAC have zero ability to influence the law. We cannot change the law just as we cannot enforce the law. Your members of congress can. Understand that in this state of global emergency, their priorities may be shifted to mass public well-being, however your voices should not be ignored. It might be wise to use this time to draft ideas and proposals to submit to law makers when the world returns to normal. Your local independent living center might be willing and able to help you. The International Code Council (ICC) will periodically seek public comment on what parts of the building code could be better. This is a great opportunity to voice your opinion on physical access issues. Since the building code gets updated on a 3-year cycle, it has the ability to be more progressive than the Federal accessibility Standards. The people at the United Sates Access Board are good people who always do their best as well. They developed the current edition of the ADA Standards, and while they may not be able to change the Federal requirements as quickly as the ICC can, I don’t think they would completely dismiss a genuinely good idea to improve physical access. Giving them more food for thought to evaluate for future editions of ADA Standards can only be a good thing.
I cannot guarantee that all ideas for change will have a lasting impact, but I can say that not voicing your opinions to the people who can do something will have no impact. Just as a person cannot exercise their rights if they are unaware of them in the first place, a law maker cannot represent a population if that person does not know what is important to their constituents. Knowledge is power, and key to exercising the freedoms we should all enjoy.
Other activities could include:
- Assisting others with disabilities who are less able to advocate for themselves.
- Identifying areas of your community that are barriers to people with disabilities and see if you can make a difference.
- If you qualify, consider donating blood as there is currently a terrible shortage.
As a closing note, I just want to express my hope that everyone is taking the responsibility to not spread COVID-19 seriously. As much as I do not want to get sick and yet am not afraid of long-term effects to my own health, I do not want anyone’s loved ones in the high-risk population to suffer needlessly. We need to think of others, now more than ever.