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Black and Poor Communities Need More Than the ADA

August 2020 in , , ,

On July 26th we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. As a result, employers cannot discriminate against disabled employees and must provide reasonable accommodations such as wheelchair ramps, accessible bathroom stalls, and sign language interpretation at events. While these changes are monumental, the work is not over. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 Americans are living with a disability, which refers to any condition of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for a person to engage in certain activities. This means that every issue we work on – jobs, housing, climate change, democracy, and reproductive health – is a disability justice issue. 

While those living with a disability have a wide range of experiences, we know that race, class, and gender play a critical role in whether or not disabled people have full access to jobs, schools, healthcare, and the education system:

  • A disabled person is less likely to have a job, as fewer than 1 in 5 disabled Americans are employed, which pushes their families and communities into poverty.
  • Black students with disabilities are over-policed, limiting their access to an equal education. According to the U.S Department of Education, 19 percent of students with disabilities are Black, but they represent over a third of those suspended.
  • We also know that disabled communities have reproductive needs of their own. People with disabilities need the access to the full spectrum of reproductive services – including abortion access. We know that 90 percent of people with developmental disabilities will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. Everyone – disabled people included – deserve the right to have a child, not to have a child, and if they choose to have a child are able to do so free of violence and oppression. 

State Policies to Support Disabled Communities During Elections and a Health Pandemic

In the midst of a health pandemic and the looming presidential elections, many people living with a disability are in nursing homes where the coronavirus is running rampant and are trying to access safe and fair elections. To support disabled people, states can advance policies that expand vote-by-mail and expand access to public assistance programs.

State legislators: If you’re interested in talking one-on-one or hosting a virtual legislator briefing for your state, fill out this short form and we will follow up with you.