Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are we invisible?

According to the analysis of our contries Census persons with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States. With the seemingly endless amount of information available on the Internet, I find it quite interesting that there is little statistical information that speaks to the relative impact disability has on the nation’s workforce. In proper context, however, considering how this countries leadership over the last twenty five years has mostly moved away from an attitude of social responsibility to an affinity towards corporate welfare, perhaps this gross oversight in documentation ought not come as a surprise.

Realizing what would be necessary for the general populous to become focused on the disabled, it is necessary to show how disability affects us individually. Considering the stigmata from the general population that one with a disability faces  that disabled individual would tend to hide their disability if possible. I do this as well. I am legally blind and have a wandering eye. I try to keep the side of my face with that wandering eye forward to the person I am addressing so when my eye wanders it looks natural, like I am looking at them. Others with disabilities may behave in kind. We all desire to be treated equally. Many of the disabled have experienced inequality in many ways and desire anonynimity if it is obtainable. I  really do not care if the world is to know that I suffer a disability but I don't want to advertise it either. I can testify that I have affected you because either your or your parents tax dollars paid for my rehabilitation and education through social Government sponsored programs. My disability has affected you.

Visual and auditory impairments are mostly unseen unless they are extreme. Some disabled individuals are so affected by a disorder that their actions and/or communication demonstrates to others that they are disabled. It is the same with those who may suffer a mental disability. Many people do not see the mentally, visually, and auditorally disabled like myself because we communicate well. Our fellow man really only sees the evidence of the growing disabled population when we are gathered together for a cause or function of some sort.

The lack of exposure is blinding to the rest of our peers. They do not understand how disability touches everyone. They do not realize that one day we may face living with a disability or living with the affects of a loaved one's disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the disabled from being singled out, insuring anonymity if possible, but this same anonymity also affects the way our fellow man sees the disabled. They are, by design, unnoticed. The disabled individual is not required to mark themselves as disabled 

Through an analysis on the 1985 86 census bureau's paper "Disability, Functional Limitation and Health Insurance Coverage: 1985-86" we discover that one out of every 5 citizens aged 15 and over are affected in a way that they cannot perform basic functions due to a disability. Out of 36 million disabled Americans, 15 million are of working age. Only 5 million have jobs and of the 10 million who don't, 60 percent of them have been on disability unemployment for so long that the US Dept. of Labor doesn't include them in the ranks of the unemployed.

There are an estimated 43 million individuals with disabilities in this country. Disability touches nearly one out of every 2 adult Americans. And yet, for every dollar spent to rehabilitate disabled persons for employment, 10 or more dollars are returned into our economy as the individual becomes gainfully employed and no longer a burden to the taxpaying citizen. The individual now becomes a taxpaying citizen adding to the ranks of a productive and useful society, adding to our Gross National Product. The largest affect is that positive gains are seen in all areas for this effort. The individual is now empowered. With that empowerment comes pride and a perpetually increasing self image also adding to the civility of our generation.
To realize the logic of this investment in rehabilitation our fellow citizens must shift modalities of thinking. They must see that one day they will be forced to deal with disability personally, whether that be with themselves, their loved ones, a friend, or a colleague. The unemployed disabled and already affect all taxpayers with the expense of our social programs designed to assist the disabled. People must understand that this is investment and not charity.

To utilize the ideas of rehabilitation the disabled must first be seen. The part of America that has moved away from recognizing the need for social responsibility must give up this black and white thinking; how the disabled being rehabilitated burdens their wallets, their time, and their day to day life. This thinking is tantamount to the old ideas of tribal living of leading the weak to the desert in favor of the strong. The disabled must also stand to be recognized by those who would allow the importance of social responsibility. Our country must once again embraces the spirit of the words written on Lady Liberty "Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" and internalize this. The huddled mass is here, the largest minority group in our society is the disabled. We may not be seen but we are right next to you. We are not invisible.

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