I hope everyone is having a good summer and that you all were able to have some kind of celebration for the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I had an anniversary of my own the same week: 46 years of being disabled. Obviously, I was disabled before the ADA and I can remember going to stores that I couldn’t get into in my wheelchair. I can remember not having disability parking or curb cuts to get into the stores that were accessible. There have been many architectural changes for the better over the years of the ADA. I wish there had been more changes to the infrastructure of caring for people with disabilities.
We continue fighting for many of those social infrastructure changes. We continue the fight for home care supports but there always seems to be something more important on legislative desks. There always seem to be causes more financially worthy of taxpayer money. It’s true that there are very many and very expensive worthy causes for the improvement of society. We can hardly expect our legislators not to fund education and training, low-income housing or transportation. These are all causes that also benefit the disability community, but if you can’t get out of bed or your house or your neighborhood every day, they aren’t much good for the disabled.
We need to help lawmakers realize that providing services infrastructure is important not just to the disability community but to the society at large. How many news pieces did you read or hear this month that went straight to curb cuts as something that everybody appreciates and uses? The same kind of improvements will be obvious when people with disabilities are working and going to school and taking part in the arts and community activities at the same rate as able-bodied people.
The political and social issues related to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter movement are huge and deserve a good hard look by legislators and all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic needs to be addressed and financed in so many areas. It’s been devastating to many lives and to our economy. And it seems clear that as soon as we start to loosen up some of the restrictions on social distancing we have increased numbers of cases and deaths. I’m grateful that our governor has responded to outbreaks in Minnesota with increased mask requirements. It’s not easy to wear a mask for those of us with respiratory challenges, but we also know what’s at risk if we were to get sick with COVID. I’m staying careful and hope you are too. I’m also praying that the vaccine will come before we lose too much.
The importance of the Black Lives Matter social justice movement is huge, and I join those who believe that it can’t continue to take generations to really address our society’s major issues around race. I am encouraged at the seriousness of many recent discussions about racial issues. They are a necessary big step toward a new future. We also need to take a hard look at our police problem and disparities in the area of criminal justice. When you look at the statistics on people who are incarcerated or who lack healthcare, quality education, and jobs with a livable income, it’s people of color who are on the top of every list. That must not continue. And we in the disability community need to also take a hard look at how we include and represent and serve the interests of disabled people of color.
Moving to another topic, but one that relates back to all of the above topics is our ability to vote. We all have that ability, and it is our responsibility, too. By the time you read this it may be too late to request an absentee ballot from the Secretary of State for the August 11 primary. But if it’s too late for vote-by-mail, find a safe way to get to your local voting place. Then be sure to get a ballot for the November 3 election, and spend the time you need to identify the best candidates, people who will be able to lead us through the continuing problems to come. I do believe we are going to continue to see problems beyond anything most of us have ever seen. We need someone who will take us in the right direction, who is willing to admit mistakes and demonstrate wisdom in addressing our common problems. So vote.
And one last thing: Make sure that you carefully complete whatever ballot you do fill out. Our votes matter and our voices matter if we want to solve problems and create a better future.