Last Friday, I proposed that disabled people really only need three things: Accessibility, Money, and Agency. Leaving aside food, clothing, and shelter, which all people need, Accessibility, Money, and Agency encompass all of the “special” needs of disabled people, of all ages and disabilities. Yesterday I explored a broad definition of Accessibility, and what it means for disabled people. Today, it’s all about the Money.
Disability Thinking - March 24, 2014
"Money is the ultimate adaptive technology. A wheelchair can only be useful as a wheelchair. You can't obtain food with a hearing aid. A counseling program won't help a quadriplegic get out of bed in the morning. Money, though, in the right quantity, can be translated into just about anything a person with a disability needs to unlock their potential and make their theoretical independence real.”
It turns out I already blogged about this a little over a year ago. I don’t really have much to add.
Except for this. Imagine a world without money. It sounds sort of idyllic, and it would be, if everyone at the same time they gave up money also all decided they would henceforth be happy to do stuff for others, expecting nothing in return … all the time. Otherwise, the disappearance of money would leave disabled people especially helpless, because we would be entirely dependent on charity and kindness for the help we need to do things that our disabilities prevent us from doing.
Fewer of us than average have the physical ability to grow or hunt our own food. Nor are many of us capable of building our own dwellings, wheelchair accessible or not. Those are just the basics, but many of us need things like sophisticated wheelchairs, hearing aids, ventilators, and other devices that are very hard to produce as artisanal handicrafts. Not to mention those of us who can’t get out of bed, feed ourselves, or wipe our butts without the help of another human being.
The problem, obviously, is that while money is especially empowering for us as disabled people, it is also harder for us to obtain. It probably shouldn’t be. If economics worked like Monopoloy, for instance, where the game starts with the “banker” doling out a set amount of money to all the players, it might be a bit easier, or feasible for us. SSI and other disability-related benefits are gestures in that general direction, but just barely. More of us could probably earn all that we need than typically do, and there are dozens of possible reasons for this. In any case, this is not the place to suggest how disabled people are supposed to get more money. That is another discussion.
My point here is that I sometimes think we spend too much time trying to think up complicated service systems with hundreds of moving parts and barriers to entry, when really, most of us who have disabilities could improve our own lives considerably if we had more money. It wouldn’t solve all of our problems, but more money sure would make the rest of our problems easier to solve.
Tomorrow, I will finish this series with the most hard to describe, but possibly most important thing disabled people need … Agency.