Hello? Can you hear us?
by Stephen Taylor
Do you ever get frustrated when you want to be a part of a conversation but are ignored? Or, worse yet, you want to be part of a conversation but aren’t even invited? There is no feeling more isolating than being in a room full of people but not being acknowledged. Maybe my height scares people, but I really doubt that. My guess is when people see my hearing aids, they assume that I am unable to hear and choose to ignore me. They may be right about my not being able to hear in that setting, but they should at least recognize the fact that I am in the room. People in the disability community experience this on a daily basis and have been doing so for centuries.
The disability community is the invisible community. We are expected to let society and others dictate what we are allowed to be a part of. They determine what should and should not be accessible to us. In other words, we are supposed to shut up and just deal with the inconvenience of not having access to the world. Why is it that people with disabilities are not invited to the table for discussion about accessibility issues? Or even a conversation about what the community needs? Please note the key word – “needs.” There are many things we “want,” but I am talking about “needs.” Yet, the disability community is expected to accept whatever society deems appropriate.
Disability rights are civil rights. In the late eighties, a group of courageous individuals laid the foundation for others to continue the fight for people with disabilities. The ADA of 1990 was passed and vastly improved physical accessibility to many buildings, but enforcement is severely lacking. As a result, society has continued to fail to acknowledge the needs of the disability community, and we have been silenced.
The days of silence are coming to an end. If the disability community would unite, then we would become the largest political and social movement ever. It is time for us to stop accepting the norm of being silent and ignored; instead, we need to unite our voices and demand to be heard and invited to the table for discussion. It is time for the world to hear our voices and us. Please join this movement, so we may continue the legacy of those courageous individuals from the eighties.