The USA has a network of disability rights and regulations that aim to eliminate discrimination in daily life. Unfortunately, they are often ineffective. 30 years after the transformative DDA was signed into law, people living with disability still face barriers to involvement in society; VOA News highlights the fact that only 20% of people with disabilities are employed, despite the number being able to work being much higher. People living with disability often face challenges, from simple workplace adjustments to the very language they face from other members of the public. Tackling these is a moral imperative for American society as a whole.
People living with disabilities often have greater requirements for their families. As a result, discrimination can also be a factor that they have to deal with. Laws have sought to improve the experience of the families of people with a disability; the Family and Medical Leave Act is one example of a law that has helped the families of children with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy (CP).
Following a diagnosis of CP kids often require complex and time-intensive care, something the FMLA helps to provide. The new administration is seeking to overhaul the laws, which, at nearly 30 years old, are often not fit for purpose. Analysis by SHRM of the proposed changes covers one key factor – a change from the leave being unpaid, to paid. Giving families the option to take time off work without damaging their own earning prospects is crucial, and will help family members living with a disability to access care.
What of those people living with a disability who don’t have a familial support network? The current administration came into the spotlight recently. USA Today reported that President Biden had signaled his intention to continue fighting against proposed changes to a law that provides disability changes – despite it being at odds with his own policy platform. Service is currently lacking when it comes to the timely and high quality provision of healthcare, and much must be done to ensure access and fair treatment in the future. Globally, we need to see higher uptake of people completing relevant disability training certification so that they network of support workers continues to grow.
Underpinning the experience of Americans with a disability in modern society is language. Language can often feel inconsequential compared to more clear factors like money, work, and education. However, as the Harvard Business Review outlines, language can be immensely powerful when used against people living with a disability.
For people already feeling alienated by society, the simple misuse of words that have no connotation for other members of the public can be demoralizing, and contribute to a sense of discrimination. Americans must start to analyze the language they use more carefully, and look for alternatives even where they think they’re being fair: just a little change can do a world of good for those most in need.
Bringing these tracts together into a cogent policy will help American society and government to be just that bit fairer to people living with disabilities. In a fair society, everyone gets a chance. That includes people living with disability, and only legal and societal change can ensure that.