I’m a disabled woman, disability rights lawyer, and disability counselor and assessment specialist. Disability affects me personally and professionally. It drives me to advocate for an inclusive, diverse, and accessible tomorrow. I’m not alone. There is a rich disability culture onli
I’m a disabled woman, disability rights lawyer, and disability counselor and assessment specialist. Disability affects me personally and professionally. It drives me to advocate for an inclusive, diverse, and accessible tomorrow. I’m not alone. There is a rich disability culture online and in person. This Disability Pride Month, I am highlighting the key issues facing the disability community in this Disabled State of the Union address. Let me know what you think! Also available on the Apple Podcast app!
Hi everyone and thank you for watching or listening. My name is Ashley Jacobson. I am a disability rights attorney, who also holds a master’s degree and certification in a disability counseling field. I also am a woman living with physical disability from autoimmune disease. Throughout my life, I’ve been inspired by the work of seemingly fearless advocates. It wasn’t until I became an advocate myself, that I truly understood how necessary, and challenging advocacy can be. It’s not always well received (or initially understood) but in those moments, when you see a change to which you’ve devoted your efforts, we become one step closer to a truly equitable and inclusive world. As someone who has professionally and personally experienced disability, I’ve witnessed just how important disability justice (or inclusion) is for our future. While disability is incredibly common, and perhaps the most normal and shared human experience, it’s still stigmatized and discriminated against in workplaces, community groups, schools, and social settings. Everyone blessed with the opportunity to age will acquire some form of disability in their lifetimes. 1 in 4 adults in the US have a disability—that’s over 61 million potential voters, and includes many of your coworkers, family, and friends. When I tell nondisabled individuals that statistic, they think, “No way.” You, even might be wondering, how is it that possible? Do I really know that many people in my personal life who are living with disability? Disability affects people of every race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and identity. Disability is diverse. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the definition of disability is all encompassing to include:
A person living with a mental or physical condition that significantly impairs one or more major life functions (eating, sleeping, grooming, bathing, working, mobility, hearing, vision, etc.); OR
A person who has a record of being diagnosed with such a condition; OR
A person who others regard as having a disability. The lawmakers did an extraordinary thing when they made the definition of disability that broad. They acknowledged that the disability experience itself is as diverse as the disability community throughout our country. They recognized that even without formal diagnosis, you have disability rights. They recognized that inherently and purposely discriminatory environments needed to be made more equitable and accessible.
It’s important to note, that disability rights are recent in our history. I lived before they existed in the widespread fashion, they are in today. And while these rights are a great start, there is a long way to go. Disability includes those with anxiety, ADHD, dyslexia, PTSD, hearing loss, vision loss, brain injury, chronic illness, and many other conditions which far exceed the limited stereotype nondisabled people see when picturing disability. To most nondisabled people, they hear “disability” and think someone using a wheelchair. While that certainly is one group of the disability community, it’s not the whole disability community. Why is this important?
Because if we want to truly address the issues of today, to ensure a better tomorrow, we must have an accurate depiction of who will be living in that tomorrow. We must recognize disabled citizens as part of our present and future. One of the central issues facing the disabled, is the lack of recognition by the nondisabled of disability culture and its value in our society.
A remarkable effect of advocacy and accessible social media spaces, is that people from the disability community have become more organized in their advocacy and more equipped at sharing resources with disabled individuals throughout our country. But advocates have been sharing and fighting for disability justice for decades. They climbed the steps of the Capital, some forced to disembark their wheelchairs to climb on hands and knees—because t