HomeabelismCan We Beat These Barriers to Accessibility?

Labels may be over-used, but they are still useful when it comes to finding direction. Unfortunately, there are still barriers to getting that accommodation, and they must be discussed.

Diagnostic Cost
American children have a right to be evaluated for learning and developmental disabilities. Because the testing is so expensive, there’s often push-back.

For instance, private testing from LDA Minnesota costs $1775 for learning disabilities alone. If you want testing for ADHD, you will pay another $200 for a total of $1975. I imagine schools would get some sort of subsidy, but it would still be expensive. If parents decide to get their child tested privately, the school should still pay under IDEA.

Testing is just as outrageous for adults, with there’s little to no financial help. Health insurance likely won’t pay, unless you happen to have amazing insurance. Unless you have another disability, workforce centers or disability charities can’t help. While I was searching for a doctor to test me, I found a few places requesting upwards of $3000. This makes the first step to accommodation next to impossible for low-income people. In fact, it’s probably too steep for a lot of middle class families, too.

A city cross-walk with an Afircan American man walking, and the sidewalk cuts completely blocked by construction materials.

An example of ableism people with mobility related disabilities deal with all the time.
via flickr

Structural Ableism
If you’ve spent time in civil rights circles, you’ve heard of structural racism and sexism. That applies to ableism, too. Lack of cross walk markings and poor structural design are both examples, as well. Poor funding for accessibility offices, and complex procedures are also structural problems.

The resistance and outright difficulty in getting services further discourages people. Often, when folks mention these issues, those on the service level can do little about it.

Stigma
This issue is one of the biggest barriers. People with disabilities are still generally seen as inferior. I’ve had teachers and employers scoff at providing accommodation. They didn’t want to put in the effort, and may have thought I was being selfish for asking. They still provided what I needed, because I am protected by the law. This kind of attitude is why many folks who need extra help don’t seek it. They don’t want to be seen as weak, needy, or trouble makers.

Unfortunately, this feeds into lack of attention to disability rights and, by extension, accessibility. Worse yet, it contributes to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

What Can We Do?
This is a tricky question, because the problem is so big. Diagnostic cost is a part of ever rising medical care and the ongoing struggle to fund schools. Structural ableism can be hard to spot, and stigma has centuries of believers backing it up.

In the first two cases, follow school or company procedure for reporting discriminatory practices. If that doesn’t work, and you can either afford it or find someone to do it pro-bono for you, get lawyers involved. These are your rights being violated, and the only way to get them is to fight for them.

Stigma, on the other hand, can be chipped away at in a variety of ways:

  • Openly discuss whatever gifts your differences have given you when the opportunity arises.
  • If you’re comfortable with it, discuss your challenges and easy ways to help with them.
  • Point out how technology originally for disabilities now helps people of all ability levels. Speech to text on smartphones is a good example.

Ignorance is most often based in lack of exposure to minority groups. The majority of people are decent folks who don’t know how damaging their behavior is. The best way to educate them is to be yourself, while not being shy about your particular disability.

If you’re not ready to be vocal about your disability, you can still donate to non-profits, like Understood. Another easy way is to spread others’ stories.

Do you have any ideas on how to address these barriers? Leave a comment, and let me know!

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