Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Diagramming Disability Issues

Angelia Davis, Greenville Online - June 16, 2015

The issue discussed in this article isn’t very important, but it got me thinking about how we classify disability advocacy issues. I would like to offer a model.

I think that one way to look at any disability issue is to ask two questions:

1. Is it about rights or benefits?


2. How high or low are the stakes?

Let’s get really nerdy about it and draw a diagram:
Now let’s add some of the more familiar disability issues:
Free Airport Parking seems like a fairly Low Stakes issue, though not extremely low because some disabled people probably do travel a lot, and suddenly having to pay for parking will probably affect them quite a bit. It is also pretty firmly a Benefits issue, and only a matter of Rights if you believe that inexpensive parking is a right that disabled people should definitely have. Personally, I think the answer is, or should be, a qualified “no.” In the same quadrant but a bit lower stakes I placed Special Event Discounts … those discounts often given out at theme parks and county fairs and such. They are almost more like charity than rights, and of little real consequence to the disabled community. Whether you think they are nice gestures or whiff of condescension, either way they don’t change anyone’s lives.

To me, Accessible Parking belongs in the Rights / Low Stakes quadrant … clearly a Right, and of comparatively low importance. However, I would place it close to the High Stakes area. It’s important to some of us, on some occasions, and when we need it, Accessible Parking is very important indeed. But it’s probably not as important as the outrage and publicity surrounding it, especially generated from non-disabeld people. For some reason, it’s the one issue they consistently want to advocate for on our behalf.

Minimum Wage and Social Security Disability funding belong in the lower right quadrant, as they both mainly concern Benefits, (i.e., money), and directly affect disabled peoples’ ability to live independently and prosper in the community. There are Rights elements to both issues, though Minimum Wage is somewhat more about Rights than Social Security. Minimum Wage should be a Right, whether or not it amounts to a whole lot of money for any particular disabled person.

Finally, take a look at the High Stakes, Rights area. Home Care Funding is mostly a Rights issue, but also very much about monetary Benefits. It is also very clearly a High Stakes matter, as for many of us, Home Care is the keystone of our entire way of life. Without it, we can’t live where we live, and can’t do anything we usually do. Loss of Home Care can even shorten our lives. Stakes don’t get higher than that. Building Accessibility is even more of a pure Rights issue, not really a Benefit at all. And it’s important, but perhaps not always as High Stakes as a life-and-death issue like Home Care.

These are all personal judgment calls. It’s not an exact science. But figuring out the “location” of various disability issues might help us understand them better.

Also note that this model doesn’t include cultural issues, like “Inspiration Porn," or interpersonal issues, such as the terms people use to refer to disabled people. Maybe sometime I’ll try making a diagram of some sort for those.