One of the common refrains I’ve heard from many in the disability advocacy community is that COVID-19 has resulted in everyone from employers to religious communities creating accommodations that would’ve been helpful for people with certain kinds of disabilities to have to begin with. Some in the disability community have even noted the irony that many of the accessibility options that were previously deemed too inconvenient or difficult to implement have only been implemented during COVID-19 now that the ability of able-bodied people to function was being compromised. And that is true—it is ironic indeed.
One of the concerns is that once we get past COVID-19, many of the things that made the world more accessible in certain ways for people with certain kinds of disabilities will disappear. I hope this concern does not turn into reality. As such, on this day, the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law, I want to highlight the following things that I hope to not see disappear from an accessibility standpoint after COVID-19:
More Ability to Work from Home
Unfortunately, the streets, sidewalks, and subways (for those who have subways), to name a few, were not necessarily designed for people with accessibility issues in mind. As such, everything from snow mounds at street crossings during the winter to unreliable subway elevators at all times of year make it exceptionally difficult for people with mobility limitations to navigate around in ways that they get to work in good time.
As such, having greater ability to work from home and not have to worry as frequently about navigating the outdoor obstacle course to get to work seems wise. Working from home came into place at many companies due to COVID-19; hopefully this option can stay, for people in industries where working from home is possible and for people who could use the ability to work from home to begin with. All that being said, I should make it clear that this should be done in addition to, not instead of, making sure that countries, states, cities, and towns are made wheelchair-accessible.
In the interim, a good step would be to have more livestreamed religious services, so that people have more of an opportunity to watch their services from home. Livestreamed services have also become a much more common theme than before because of COVID-19, in order to keep people from coming to religious spaces and potentially contributing to the spread of the virus. Hopefully, these livestreamed services will continue and not go away just because able-bodied people feel safe going to church again.
More Doors that Could be Opened Automatically
Before the pandemic, such a device was viewed by some as an item just too expensive to implement. But as many of us turned into germaphobes as a result of the pandemic, having doors that could be opened without our touching them suddenly became a necessity, regardless of what the expense might be. For people with certain kinds of physical disabilities, automatically opening doors were a necessity long before any global pandemic.
Given the necessity of automatically opening doors, regardless of any pandemic, I am hoping that this is something that we continue to have even post-pandemic. While a germaphobe might not want to touch a door due to COVID, a person with certain kinds of physical limitations may be completely unable to open a door in the first place, regardless of whether they want to or not.
There are clearly certain ways that the world has been made more accessible for people with certain kinds of disabilities (and particularly, physical disabilities) as a result of COVID-19. However, it is important to be realistic and realize that this pandemic has not cured the world of all its ableistic tendencies. For example, the pandemic has not resulted in religious buildings becoming more accessible, in subways receiving more elevators, and in sidewalks that need ramps for wheelchairs receiving such ramps. If anything, the fiscal peril that many, ranging from religious institutions to local governments, are facing due to COVID-19 will give a lot of places the excuse that they cannot afford to make certain places and spaces more accessible for people with disabilities (as to whether such places truly cannot afford such improvements, I guess one can only judge on a case-by-case basis). Still, there are certain ways our world has become more accessible due to COVID-19 that will hopefully remain after the pandemic.
Are there other forms of accommodation that you hope remain after COVID for the sake of people with disabilities? If so, please comment below.
 Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list. There may be other forms of accessibility that have only come into place that I’m forgetting right now—if there are any such things you want to highlight, please feel free to respond in the comments section below.
In my observations, many (but not all) attitudes about people with disabilities seem to fall into one of two categories: either someone is an “inspiration” just for living with the disability, or the fact that someone has a disability is “tragic” and sad.
Many of the disability activists I know of, through following them on social media, try to push back against both notions—the notion that they are inspirations and the notion that it is tragic that they have the disability. However, I want to focus today’s post on addressing this notion that exists among some of us that having a disability is a tragedy.
Why do some people view it as tragic? It’s because of the fact that in many cases, a disability that exists out of the control of an individual can limit what someone is able to do—everything from the jobs one is able to do, to the subway stations in New York City one is able to enter into or exit out of. These limits that exist therefore make the disability itself tragic.
I can see where the “disability as tragic” mindset comes from, but in thinking about why a disability is viewed that way by some of us, I can’t help but ask the following question: Is it the disability itself that is tragic, or instead is it the fact that many homes, employers, governments, individuals, houses of worship, and other places don’t even bother to make the effort to make their part of the world more accessible to people of a variety of disabilities? You see, in a world where all of us made an effort to make sure that people with a variety of disabilities are included fully, then we would be in a world where one’s opportunities are not limited by disability. In a world where all this effort is made at accessibility, then the limits would be fewer and farther between (if they were to exist at all). And yet, nowhere near enough effort is made at this.
It is that lack of effort at making sure people with a variety of disabilities have a fair shot that is particularly tragic.
To address the tragedy, we need to cut out the excuses. Yes, it costs money to build ramps and elevators, add accommodations for braille, and make sure there are sign language interpreters where that is necessary. But if we really wanted to make sure all human beings have a fair shake, then we need to find a way to make sure that people with a wide variety of disabilities are accommodated.
Back in February, I said that on my blog, I would publish posts on major issues relevant to the election that are either misunderstood or not talked about as much as they should be.
By working on such posts, I found myself getting some insights into the upcoming election for President of the United States that I would otherwise not have. Because of those insights, as well as the fact that my blog talks about injustices that need to be addressed, I thought I would end these posts by talking about who I will vote for and why.
I’m voting for Joe Biden because, of all the candidates in the race, I think he gives the best shot at playing a role in addressing injustices. His past track record, while imperfect, gives me that belief.
On the issue of ableism and disability justice, Biden cosponsored some important legislation on this issue. He was a Senate cosponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was landmark legislation for people with disabilities. Earlier in his Senate career, he cosponsored the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which required equal educational access in all public schools for kids with physical and mental disabilities. While there is still much to do to make all corners of our country as accessible as they need to be, the passage of these laws, which was made a bit easier by Biden’s support and cosponsorship in both cases, was nevertheless useful. His support of such legislation gives me hope that with disability rights issues, he would reject the argument that something is “too expensive” or “too impractical” to be made accessible—arguments I often hear against making certain things accessible.
Those who are familiar with human trafficking issues would know that arguably the most important piece of American legislation when it comes to anti-human trafficking laws is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)—without its existence, traffickers couldn’t be prosecuted as easily, and victims wouldn’t be protected as easily. The person who introduced the reauthorization of the Act in the Senate in 2008 was…Joe Biden. As someone who used to help with anti-human trafficking education myself, I think it’s important for me to set the record straight on this issue because it has only come up in this election in the context of a sex trafficking conspiracy theory (one that Trump has praised the supporters of) that has complicated the work of organizations that are trying to combat human trafficking.
Speaking of Biden authoring things, while his authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill was controversial in many ways, one major positive of that overarching bill was the Violence Against Women Act, which among other things helped establish a Domestic Violence Hotline. A hotline that has come of great use during the pandemic exists in large part due to Biden’s efforts.
On environmental issues, Biden, while not perfect, is still eons better than Trump. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has a scorecard that grades politicians based on which environmental measures they do or do not support, as well as which environmental regulatory rollbacks they do and do not support. Biden’s lifetime score is 83%, which is not as good as the 91% held by Bernie Sanders or the 96% held by Elizabeth Warren. But, his main opponent is Trump, who in LCV’s own words, said about Trump’s environmental grade in his first year in office that: “However, to simply award Trump an ‘F’ does not come close to capturing both the breadth and depth of his administration’s assault on environmental protections and the harm it is causing communities across the country – all to provide favors to the wealthiest corporate polluting interests.”
These are some of the positive things on Joe Biden’s record, and I’m not even coming close to mentioning all the positive things (just a few that should be highlighted). However, as I said, his record is not perfect. I mentioned his Crime Bill on my blog, which is part of a larger dubious record he has when it comes to racial justice issues; there’s also the fact that he supported restrictions that prevented openly gay individuals from serving in the military, supported the Defense of Marriage Act (restricting marriage so that it’s between one man and one woman), and poorly handled the Anita Hill hearing, to name a few of the more problematic parts of his record. A charitable view of Biden’s record is that when someone is in public service for nearly five decades, there are bound to be some major mistakes within that record. A less charitable view would look at his record as evidence of his being a person who would add to injustices, instead of resolving them.
I tend to take a line down the middle—yes, he’s been in public service for a long time, but he does have some injustices to answer to. He has answered by expressing regret for how he handled the Anita Hill situation as well as for past anti-LGBTQ+ positions and the Crime Bill.
More cynical individuals may think that such expressions of regret are just for political expediency and/or are woefully inadequate; I most certainly understand the cynicism because politics can be so cynical at times. However, unlike President Trump, Biden has demonstrated the capacity to not just apologize but back it up with actions to show that he has learned from past mistakes. Of note was the fact that not only did he end up regretting his past positions that were unsupportive of LGBTQ+ rights, but he backed it up by: a) supporting same-sex marriage and b) forcing President Obama’s hand on support of same-sex marriage (by the admission of Obama administration officials). On a number of issues, but particularly racial justice, I sincerely hope that Biden demonstrates a similar capacity to back up his remorse for certain past stances of his (such as authoring the Crime Bill) with action (such as trying to find solutions to the issue of mass incarceration against people of color that many believe he helped create).
Even with the positives I found with Biden, some may be wondering why I’m not suggesting voting for a third party or not voting at all. Especially since I live in New York, some might argue that I could do either without having an impact on the election.
The answer is that I am voting third party, as I will be voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line (a third party that exists in some states, including New York). I think that it is important for me to vote for Biden and I think it is important for third parties to have a voice as well—by voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line, it’s the best of both worlds as far as I am concerned.
I also never considered not voting. I never considered that for two reasons: first, because I was able to distinguish key differences between Trump and Biden on issues that matter to me; and second, because I want my voice to be heard on local elections too (even though all my seats locally are heavily Democratic overall).
So there’s my breakdown of how I judged between the two major party candidates, and how I decided to vote for Biden. While I’m not as enthusiastic about Biden as some people are, I’ve concluded that it’s the best choice out of all the choices presented to me in this election from the standpoint of addressing injustices. And, given the fact that Biden seems more willing than Trump to follow the science when it comes to COVID, it’s a choice that I hope will save some lives.
I will be interested to hear others’ thoughts on the election, though! Feel free to comment below.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this post are my opinions alone and does not represent an endorsement by any organization with which I am associated.
 I know many people have already voted. But this post is directed at those who have not already voted (or those who have but are curious to hear what I have to say).
 I am focusing on his past track record because I think looking at a track record of nearly five decades can be instructive in determining what sorts of issues he may stand for in the next 4-8 years—potentially even more instructive than looking at his platform.
 I am not going to use tons of space in this post talking about Trump. There are lots of posts on the internet talking about Trump’s negatives. Instead, I’m going to use space here to talk about some positive elements of Biden’s record, because it’s important not just to vote against someone, but for someone.
Before every hurricane, we hear elected officials to tell people to “get out of harm’s way.” They say that “if you don’t leave, you are putting your own life at risk.” Or even more dire—I’ve heard elected officials say that “death is certain” if you don’t evacuate. People in parts of Louisiana and Texas heard all of this as Hurricane Laura was approaching last week.
Now don’t get me wrong—I appreciate the strong language. I think that when a major hurricane is heading straight at you, particularly if you’re in an area vulnerable to storm surge from the hurricane, you need to evacuate, if at all possible.
However, I beg people, including any government officials, to take notice of that final clause in my previous sentence: if at all possible.
I say that because, for some people, evacuating is not possible. And the results of this are catastrophic, even deadly.
But how could this be the case, when governments like to give a face of taking these storms seriously? Well…here are just a few major barriers to evacuating from a weather disaster:
Not enough shelters are pet-friendly.
A Reuters article some time ago put it best—pet owners often think of their pets first when natural disasters strike. Now some of that is because people are that emotionally attached to their pets (and that is valid), but we also have to keep in mind that, in some cases, people literally can’t function without their pets. From people who rely on animals as a form of therapy for physical and/or mental health issues, to blind individuals who rely on guide dogs to get them around, there is a whole population of people who can’t function without their pets. Therefore, it is unacceptable for governments to either be short on shelters (as was the case with Florida before Hurricane Irma in 2017, according to the aforementioned Reuters article) or lack pet-friendly shelters in the first place (as was the case with South Carolina with Hurricane Florence a few years ago). If governments want people to evacuate, they need to have evacuation shelters that allow people to be with their pets, for both people who are attached to their pets and for people who can’t function without pets.
Governments also do not provide adequate transportation for people with disabilities.
I was only eleven years old when Hurricane Katrina hit, but one of the things I remember from Katrina was how the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana did not adequately provide transportation for the disabled to get to a safe place. Depending on the disability, one may not be able to get to higher ground on their own; therefore, there needs to be help. With Hurricane Katrina, government didn’t help adequately, and the death toll was probably much higher than it should’ve been because of that lack of help.
I will end this section with a quote from a report issued by the National Council on Disability in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005: “For example, during the Katrina evacuation, many people with disabilities could not evacuate because to do so would require them to abandon support services and personnel. Moreover, since emergency transportation and shelters could not care for them, many people with disabilities were forced to stay behind.”
Employee rights are inadequate.
How inadequate are employee rights? So inadequate that people can, and have, been fired because of evacuating from hurricanes. For example, a woman in North Carolina claimed that she was fired for not showing up to work after losing power during Hurricane Florence in 2018—that’s very possible because North Carolina is what’s called an “at-will employment state,” or a state where “private-sector employees can be fired for any reason – or no reason at all.” There were also stories galore before, during, and after Hurricane Irma asking whether an employee can be fired for fleeing from the hurricane (by the way, the consensus answer was “yes”). Until governments have better protections keeping people from being fired for not showing up to work during or immediately after a hurricane as part of an evacuation plan, people will hesitate to evacuate for fear of missing work and being fired.
When a disaster such as a hurricane is on the way, the barriers to evacuating should be minimized to the greatest extent possible. However, that does not happen, and that likely results in preventable deaths.
Please note that I will not publish a post next Monday, as next Monday is Labor Day.
I haven’t shared another blogger’s post on here in some time, but I think the post I have here today is worth sharing.
I think it’s important to elevate the voices of people in populations most vulnerable to the virus. Therefore, I thought it was important to share a post that Jackie at Disability & Determination wrote a few days ago about the consequences of overwhelmed hospitals for people with disabilities. I’m not going to spoil her blog post, but they are immense, and in many cases, deadly. I am sharing a link to her blog post as well as her blog below.