Written by Geoffrey Wiggins-Long
2020, a year characterized by the combustible confluence of political ideologies and social injustice, has been the impetus for many movements happening on a daily basis. Natural disasters and a major health crisis have impacted human lives, the economy, goods, and services. These things have devastated our global community and will continue to do so for years to come.
As a keen observer of the organic movements that have sprung forth, I feel compelled to say that while I’m in agreement with the message I acknowledge that we still have a great deal to do. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement; I totally agree with the speeches, the open dialog, and the protests. These things have positively altered the conscience of the community by illuminating the injustices minorities have been forced to endure for decades. These injustices not only come from law enforcement but from the judicial system and a government whose laws have been designed to oppress, institutionalize and disenfranchise people of color. As a forty-one-year-old African American male, I am excited and filled with pride that individuals of every age and every hue have been willing to let their passion for social justice fuel their purpose. With that being said, a part of me is totally bewildered. At this time, when many diverse groups are staking their claim and demanding to be recognized as key players, the differently-abled are still being marginalized. As the social landscape changes daily, this community remains undervalued. It seems that we are still searching for effective representation as we fight for, demand equality. We are Citizens of the United States of America and we deserve respect irregardless of physical or cognitive impairment.
Prior to the global pandemic, many programs and services, working on behalf of the differently-abled were already hemorrhaging. They were facing multiple budget constraints while trying to cover operating costs. State governments, across the nation, were facing severe budget cuts. A prime example is Florida. According to a 2015 blog entitled State Disability Funding Cutbacks & the Effect on Families with Special Needs written by M&L Special Needs Financial Planning. Five years ago, Rick Scott, Governor of Florida made massive cuts to programs and services that directly affected the differently-abled. These cuts amounted to over four million dollars taken from individuals with cognitive and physical impairments. Among the organizations destroyed were Palm Beach Rehabilitation, The Arc Volusia, and Easter Seals. Organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy, Special Olympics, and Big Brothers/Sisters, all serving adults and children with disabilities, also saw massive cuts to state grants.
Furthermore, an eight million dollar cut to funding that would allow children in these groups to attend post-secondary education programs and job training was put in place. (M&LAdmin4, 2015). Fortunately, these programs are struggling along but with no stimulus assistance on the horizon, closures could be imminent. This, of course, would have a severely detrimental impact on many of the lives of Florida’s differently-abled community.
Nationally and traditionally this fate is accepted because we are seen as expendable. Decisions are made without impunity with regards to services that would allow us to manage and maintain our lives at the highest optimal level for our most successful independence.
Social systemic change is imminent so we in the differently-abled constituency need to strike while the iron is hot. We need to develop a comprehensive agenda that will lead to the actual implementation of programs with a consistent source of funding. A source to cover annual operating costs centering around the following themes whether we as a nation are in the misted of a pandemic or not.
- Continuity of Home and Community support with service provisions
- Access to Education
- Access to Information
- Access to Steady Employment
- Access to Healthcare and other Critical needs
These five themes are vital to enhancing the lives while maintaining the health and preserving the safety, dignity, and independence of the differently-abled. ( Dina Klimkina, 2020)They are needed to create and gain authentic independence in a wide range of areas.
We as the differently-abled community must understand that while we have come a long way from the days of being confined to medical institutions there is still work to be done. We must break down the barriers of devaluation and dismissiveness that stunt the progress made on behalf of our community.
While this author is more than happy to acknowledge the anniversary of ADA legislation being signed into law, in my opinion, is theoretically a constellation prize when compared to Civil Rights and LBGTQ legislation. While it allows individuals, with physical and/or cognitive disabilities to access the threshold of equality we are still restricted by ableism which is far more detrimental to our everyday lives than any limitations that are associated with our disabilities.
Admin4, M&L. (2015, September 17). State Disability Funding Cutbacks & the Effect on Families with Special Needs. https://specialneedsplanning.net/2015/09/state-disability-funding-cutbacks-the-effect-on-families-with-special-needs/
Klimkina, Dina. (2020, MARCH 31). COVID-19 and Impacts on Individuals with Disabilities.