One of the twin aims of boldly Blind is to raise awareness among people who are not blind of our capabilities and dignity. It’s easier said than done. After all, we all are heirs of centuries-long progress and poverty regarding how people of differing races, disabilities, and ethnicities regard each other. Thankfully, Title IX in the 1960s illegalized discrimination in th eworkplace and school with regard to one sex, nationality, and disability. The Americans With Disabilities Act did a marvelous job from the Federal level with regard to opening up many opportunities in the private and public square for people to be hired and welcomed who are blind, deaf, mentally handicapped, mute, or cognitively disabled.

Still laws can’t and don’t always change hearts. They don’t by codification alone unteach biases that have built overtime. Hence, while systemic discrimination-that which is permitted under law and practiced without a social check-does not garner much press, much ingrained discrimination still remains. It’s not anyone’s overt fault but a symptom of someone’s lack of exposure to people who are disabled. How is someone to know what a person who is blind, deaf, mute, or quadriplegic able to do unless they observe it or are taught? They can’t, even in our technologically advanced age.

Hence, in her book, Demystifying Disability, Emily Ladau says what eeveryone who’s awareness can grow needs to hear: “It’s pretty common for the mere mention of the word disability to evoke fear, confusion, and an endless stream of misconceptions. And often, people don’t realize their own biases. There’s much work yet to be done to change hearts and minds—or, at the very least, to get nondisabled people to stop treating disabled people as a weird cross between precious gems and alien creatures. And I am one of the many disabled people who are passionate about doing such work.”” (Ladau, Demystifying Disability, p2)

What then is disability discrimination if it’s not systemic? The term I used is endemic. Biases are learned. Favoritism is ingrained. Hero worship is modeled. Fear is passed down from generation to generation especially unawares.

Yes, we need to be forthright when confronted with overt, ad hominim discrimination. That’s when we speak directly to a person as we diagnose their intent. Most of the time, however, we run into situations which call us to speak in the passive voice, about the disparate impact upon us caused by discriminating words or actions. For example, when a college insists on that its faculty does everything possible to accommodate for “special” needs through its disabled students services and yet a few professors refuse to provide course syllabae or handouts available only on a portal whose platform is not accessible to all screen readers, the impact on a blind or low-vision student is that he or she can’t c complete the required coursework. Thus he or she will be jeopardy of failing whatever class they are in.

Confronting the powers-that be means addressing the impact that not failure to provide a work-around has upon a student. Such an example was all too real in th ecase of Payan vs. Los Angeles Community College District. At last notice, to avoid the case being taken to the United States Supreme Court, LACCD agreed to work with all concerned parties and make adjustments to its course delivery.

It is important for us who advocate for the disabilities community that we remain staid and resolute in our stance while not becoming beligerent bulls in a china shop. AS we seek to raise awareness about people who are disabled, we do well to remember the quote from Ladau’s introduction. People whose attitudes and knowledge base has come endemically do need retaught whether by example or hands-on experience with people who are blind, deaf, mute, or otherwise disabled.

It also entails we whose impairments may be different work together as best we can, avoiding the skurmishes that intersectionality often creates between our varying blocs of advocacy. After all, we aren’t after making names for ourselves or a public blow-up for its own sake. Rather, our aim remains equal participation with those who are nondisabled in all that everyday, workaday life has to offer.

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