Happy (belated) Birthday ADA. It’s not so happy for Arizona’s current and future disabled people.

27 Jul 2010 10:16 am
Posted by: Donna

The Americans with Disabilites Act turned 20 years old yesterday.

The act was signed into law by President GHW Bush on June 26, 1990. It sought to address discrimination in employment, housing, accommodations, and other areas against physically and mentally disabled people. The reviews on it in practice are mixed but most disability activists I’ve spoken with consider it an important first step toward treating disabled Americans with respect and dignity.

The ADA anniversary puts the recent events of Arizona in mind. Lost in the breathless coverage of first, Prop 100 (which backfills cuts to education), and then, SB1070 (a racist scam and a shiny bauble intended to distract voters) is how drastic budget cuts are making the lives of of thousands of disabled people in Arizona and their families very difficult.

Of all the stupidity of what passes for conservative “ideas” in Arizona (and the rest of the country), cutting services to disabled people is by far the the most shortsighted and self-defeating. Hey, middle class wannabe John Galt, it’s one thing to convince yourself that you’ll never be unemployed or underemployed for an extended period of time. You can tell yourself that you’ll never lose your health insurance or home. You’ve got your 401k, your bank account, your McMansion, your Escalade, your gym membership, and your dogeared copy of Atlas Shrugged. You’ve got bootstraps, by God.

What could go wrong?

What you don’t have is any assurance that you will be able bodied and able minded at any time in the future. You are a fragile human being with near-negligible protection against a host of Earthly onslaughts. You are one fall, car crash, random gunshot, illness, etc. away from being in a wheelchair. Or confined to a bed. Or dependent upon strong psychotropic medication such that your brain can function at the barest level. You might require a home aide to help you with some personal tasks so that you can live and work as independently as possible. If you become disabled and can no longer work at all watch as your material assets go away. Quickly. Same thing if it happens to your spouse or child. And getting a disability check isn’t as easy as the right wing gasbags on the radio make it out to be.

An important concept the disability rights movement impressed upon me is that if you are able-d, you should always think of it as a temporary state. Because even if nothing goes awry in your life the aging process will take its toll on you eventually. No one escapes, whose life isn’t snuffed out early.

You may soon, and probably will eventually, need services as a disabled person. What you’ll find out is that the state has cut them to the bone, as have the cities. You might need a bus, for example. You just might be waiting for that bus a long time, Mr. Bootstraps.

While I’m on the topic, if you haven’t read this poignant and eloquent essay about special-needs children and “socialism”, read it now. What if John Galt had a Special Needs Child?


  1. Comment by Katie on July 27, 2010 11:26 am

    Awesome, awesome post Donna!

  2. Comment by Timmys Cat on July 27, 2010 4:20 pm

    I second Katie. Great post!

    Ah, the the flip side of the “Family Values” canard. “My family,my values.” The cutting of services seems almost like a regressive tax upon the families that need the services.

    And getting a disability check isn’t as easy as the right wing gasbags on the radio make it out to be.

    Even if, big if, you are lucky enough to have private disability insurance, things are far from solved. Most have a waiting period, then you must convince a doctor to sign off, then your check is based on how long you’ve worked and at what pay scale and, from what I understand, it’s not your full paycheck. Oh, and it might be counted as taxable income and subject to child support garnishment.
    “My private insurance ran out, I’ll have to go to Uncle Sam.”
    Ummm, good luck there. The waiting time for approval, which is pretty low, can run in the years. Don’t forget it’s through SS, so you’d best hide your assets.
    Feel the love:
    Apply for disability pay from the Social Security Disability Insurance program. This is paid for by FICA deductions from your pay, and the amount of your benefits depend on how much you contributed during your working years. Requirements to qualify for SSDI are much more stringent, and your condition needs to be reviewed regularly. You must be examined by doctors that your Social Security office sends you to, and they have to determine that you have a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from working for at least 12 months or will result in your death. Benefits won’t begin until your sixth full month of disability. Your case is reviewed periodically, so be prepared with documentation for future visits to Social Security doctors. Social Security Disability claims that were approved declined in 2007 to the lowest point in the history of the program, but applications continue to increase.

  3. Comment by Appleblossom on July 27, 2010 7:45 pm

    The gnawing fear that someday somewhere someone undeserving may receive a benefit is something that marks those on the right.

    Of course it is also about control-if they are not in control of the people receiving the aid, how do they know their largess is going to whoever they feel is deserving?

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