Rooted in Rights welcomes articles by guest authors to enhance understanding about the rights of people with disabilities. This piece about barriers to employment for people with disabilities is contributed by Shawn Murinko, former Washington State Human Rights Commissioner, located in Olympia, Washington.
I was just shy of fourteen when the ADA was passed in 1990. I’m now almost 39. In this time, a lot has changed. And despite its aim, as President George H.W. Bush put it, to “let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come down”, those walls, and the shame that comes with them, still cast an ominous cloud over the promise of equality.
A quarter of a century later, it seems like we have accepted the easy wins. We have ramps. We have buses. We even have a seemingly anemic uptick in the employment of people with disabilities. As we blow out the candles on the ADA birthday cake, I have more than a wish. I want the light from those candles to mean something and to be something, not just for the disability community, but also for our other allies, as they endeavor in their quest for equality and social justice.
A big win came for LGBT community in their fight for marriage equality last month. We need to capture their momentum. In order to do this, we need to reach out, not only to their community but to other communities as well. Their community needs to become our community and vice-versa.
I’m convinced that the only way to accomplish this is to cease the infighting within the disability community itself. All too often, while sitting at the table, I’ve heard: “that’s a blind or deaf issue” or “that’s a mental health issue.”
Intrinsically, equality is not segregated. It stands in direct opposition of it. The time has come to stop opposing ourselves and instead move forward with a unified and inclusive message, much like the LGBT has done with marriage equality. Let’s learn from this success. Let’s understand how it came to be. As a result, our message will not only resonate with clarity within our community, it will with others as well.