In response to the horrible bill banning abortion in the case of disability, I would like to propose 10 much more effective ways to combat eugenics. Ones which will actually help.
- Fight for Better Accessibility
One of the biggest barriers towards integration into society and thus the biggest source of “misery” is the lack of accessibility in our world. What is infuriating is that it doesn’t have to be that way. In a world where almost every person carries around a tiny computer more powerful than what was used to send man into space, the idea that we don’t have the ability to make this world easier to navigate for people who can’t see, or hear, or have mobility issues, is a little ridiculous.
The only thing that is actually missing is the impetus to make accessibility a priority. Consider this, improving accessibility in our cities would actually create jobs. Make it mandatory for example, for hospitals to have at least two sign language interpreters at all time, and to give incentives to doctors and nurses to learn ASL. Make the upc codes on products scanable so that blind people can use their phones to tell what a product is.
Encouraging businesses to make their stores wheelchair accessible would create work for people in building and construction. Creating incentives for people to upgrade accessibility in their homes, would also generate more work for people in these areas.
If we made accessibility a priority, imagine the technology we could produce as people work to not only improve the current infrastructure, but also develop better accessibility tools. Better wheelchairs that can handle multiple surfaces, or that can handle stairs. Apps that can be used to enable communication for people who are non-verbal or socially anxious.
- Socialize Medicine, Prescriptions, and Mental Health Services
This is a big one. One of the reasons why people fear disability and disabled children is because of the associated costs involved. Even in Canada with its theoretically socialized healthcare system, there is a heightened cost for those of us living with chronic conditions. Prescriptions, certain tests and procedures, different treatments, and so forth are often not covered. In the last two decades, what is covered by provincial insurance in Ontario has been deteriorating, as different medical procedures, eye care, dental care, and assorted other healthcare has been dropped as things covered under OHIP.
The situation is worse in the US, where every hospital visit incurs debt and Medicaid and other services are regularly gutted or made more difficult to access.
Not having access to adequate healthcare makes disability worse, as conditions that could be treated early are left to the last possible minute, or treatments that could lessen pain, increase mobility, and so forth, are made unavailable by virtue of their cost.
If you want to prevent people choosing to abort disabled fetuses, then make it so that choosing to raise a disabled child doesn’t mean an imposed sentence of poverty.
- Create Better Safety Nets and Social Programs
Most existing social programs have their amounts based on old calculations. In many cases the amounts will just barely cover the cost of an apartment. It can take months to get access to the services you need. As some of my readers will remember, it took a year and a half for me to be approved for disability, during which time I was unable to work. We were desperate and had to go to various lengths just to make ends meet.
While things are easier with disability, there is still a monthly struggle, especially with the cost of my medications. The end of the month is usually extremely tight, and we are often left with no money at all. We spend several days just hoping that nothing comes up that requires the use of money, since we literally have none.
Many times, the need to excuse ourselves from an event can be motivated as much by a lack of funds as by an inability to physically go.
Even in situations where people are not on disability support but work, the situation is not much improved. Many disabled people are faced with income discrimination and are paid less than minimum wage. Good Will and the Salvation Army are both guilty of this. In many other cases, the discrimination starts right at hiring, with disabled people often passed over in favour of abled people.
By creating better social programs, it makes it possible for disabled people to better integrate into society. It also means that we are not punished for other people’s bigotry or forced to take unsuitable jobs that may make us sicker. It also means that it will be easier for people with disabilities to live independently.
- Create More Opportunities for Disabled People
Although there are laws stating that people cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, the truth is that it happens all the time. The problem is that while bigotry can exist, it can be hard to demonstrate sufficiently enough for a claim.
Instead we should work on creating more opportunities for disabled people to empower themselves. Opportunities like business grants and assistance, scholarships, and so forth. Moreover, these opportunities should go hand in hand with social assistance. If you make it possible for disabled people to start businesses that work within their abilities and needs, without losing access to benefits in the even that they are unable to work, many would take that option.
Many of us want to work, but are unable to find work willing to work within our needs, either through accommodating work from home, accommodating the need for doctors’ appointments and so forth.
Many of the disabled people I know, supplement their income by monetizing the hobbies they are able to maintain, either through blogging, selling their art, their sewing, or some combination thereof. The problem is that often the stress of trying to make ends meet despite receiving assistance can make many conditions worse. In some extreme cases, the small income derived from these hobbies however, is deemed too great and assistance is denied. Since most of these income streams are unreliable at best, this often leaves people who rely on these services in a terrible sort of limbo.
- Integrate Special Needs into Public Schools and Classrooms
One of the ways we instill ableism in successive generations is by separating disabled kids from the general population early in life. Kids learn early that special needs children are other. More and more people are discovering that while it might seem sensible to separate children who need special assistance from the rest of the population to make sure everyone’s needs are adequately met, that in actuality, both parties suffer from this arrangement.
Disabled children will need to deal with the rest of the population at some point, and being denied the opportunity to socialize with abled children early, can be detrimental. Similarly, abled children also suffer from being unable to work alongside disabled children and socialize with them from a young age.
Moreover, accessibility can be integrated into part of the school system as well. ASL for example can be taught along with official languages. Children’s facility with language is such, that if it were started from a young age, it wouldn’t take long for a major part of the population to be conversation in non-verbal communication. Why can’t a class project involve assisting in the training of a service dog? By breaking down the separation between abled and disabled, we reduce the stigma surrounding it. We break the secrecy that implies shame.
Instead of teaching your children not to point and stare, don’t make disability something they’ve never seen before and something that shocks them.
- Fight for Better Funding for Public Schools
Every school should be equipped with adequate special training, mental health services, psychiatrists and psychologists, and counselors for more than just careers. Having trained professionals who can recognize symptoms of learning disabilities early can help kids get the accessibility measures they need earlier. Like with anything, early treatment usually means higher success rates. To be clear, I don’t mean a cure, but rather learning how to work with your specific ways of thinking.
I know that had I been diagnosed with my ADHD early, I could have worked to instill specific tricks and methods to help me focus early on. I could have made my subsequent years of schooling much easier. I may even have finished university faster.
More than that, each teacher should be trained in accessibility and special needs. Each special needs student should have someone working with them more closely as well to make sure their specific needs are met. But this cannot be done by teachers who are already overworked and underpaid. This cannot be paid for by schools that cannot even afford class material.
Our school systems are supposed to help prepare our children for the future, yet many of them are still struggling to make the standards of the past! How can a school that cannot afford computers, hope to teach a generation that will rely on them immensely, let alone find the resources to give autistic students tablets for better communication?
Many school buildings are crumbling and cannot afford to update to proper accessibility standards when they can’t even get the walls fixed.
In order to help disabled kids, we must first recognize that first rate education is essential for all children, regardless of where they live, what their parent’s financial status, race, background, and so forth.
- Socialize Childcare including Stay-at-Home Parents
Often times, parents of disabled children will feel pressure to stay at home to take care of their children, either because their children need added assistance that isn’t available in outside childcare, or because the childcare is unaffordable. The choice of which parents is going to remain as the stay-at-home parents is often disproportionately pushed on the female identifying partner, in the case of heterosexual relationships. This means that faced with the prospect of having of a disabled child, might mean that a woman is faced with the decision of giving up her career.
If childcare were properly socialized, that choice would not be as necessary. It need not be a decision between your passion and your child. What’s more, in the case of children who do need a parent to be more readily available, the parents would not be put in financial jeopardy. This would be especially true in the case of single parents of disabled children.
Moreover, a socialized childcare system would make it possible for parents of disabled children to maintain a life outside the home. We know that parents who are allowed time to themselves, to pursue their interests, tend to fare better emotionally and psychologically. Often when it comes to disability, the sense of being overwhelmed is because the parents believe that their whole lives have been taken over by their children’s disability. While not having time to yourself or for yourself is a common complaint among parents, in the case of disabled children, the blame in this case gets put directly on their disability. This can have fatal consequences*. The ability to hire a babysitter who is trained with working with particular disabilities, or who has an established relationship with the child, or even just the ability to hire a babysitter they wouldn’t be otherwise able to afford, could mean a world of difference.
*it is worth noting that while more services are definitely needed, the excuse of “not enough services” is not actually a valid excuse for the murder of disabled children (read: born children, this is not a reference to fetuses). Murder is not the victim’s fault.
What do all of these suggestions have in common?
They don’t involve trying to take away someone’s rights in the name of protecting someone else’s. These proposals in fact would benefit disabled and abled people alike! This is what fighting ableism looks like. This is what actually works.