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    My name is Michelle Nario - Redmond
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    I am a social psychologist and
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    I teach at Hiram College
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    in psychology and biomedical
    humanities program
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    and I just wrote a book on ableism
    the causes and consequences
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    of disability prejudice.
    My first memory
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    and I'll just back up and say in 1990,
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    when the ADA passed
    I was in graduate school,
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    in Kansas, and disability prejudice,
    the ADA or anything
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    related to disability issues
    were completely off my radar,
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    and I worked at a place
    where one of the pioneers
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    of disability studies worked,
    Beatrice Wright,
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    and I hadn't yet to have a class with her.
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    It really wasn't until 1995,
    which was five years later,
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    when my daughter was born,
    Sierra, with spina bifida,
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    that I became aware
    of disability and found the work
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    of Carol Gill and Simi Linton
    and began to educate myself
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    on disability studies and its scope,
    and the first memory I have of
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    confronting inaccessible spaces
    was a few years later, when we enrolled
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    my daughter Sierra in a preschool,
    at a catholic preschool,
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    right down the road; and it just didn't
    even dawn on me that we would have to
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    work so hard for her to be accommodated
    as a preschooler,
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    and it was really a function of
    the fact that the building was older,
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    there were steps, and they really didn't
    know, nor did they need to legally know,
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    about reasonable accommodations
    and civil rights of their students,
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    because they were a private facility and
    weren't subject to the ADA's rules.
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    So... it became clear to me that
    we needed to find a new preschool,
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    and luckily we found a private,
    another private place. It wasn't
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    a public school, but it
    was a music school settlement
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    and they had resources
    and they were already operating
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    under a sort of set of presumptions
    about the value of diversity
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    and diverse perspectives,
    and we didn't really have to ask for much,
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    because they bent over backwards
    to include my daughter
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    in a typical classroom, with her peers,
    her preschool peers, music classes,
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    there were so many eclectic
    movement classes,
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    and they even purchased
    equipment for their exercise room
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    and movement room
    that would be useful to her among others,
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    and she has since grown up to become
    this teacher and has applied
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    to work there as a preschool teacher.
    So, I think it would be really
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    amazing, if she came full circle.
    But, I guess, to stance the broader
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    question about being frustrated and aware
    of inaccessibility and lack of inclusion,
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    we were in a district that, when she then,
    was about to move to preschool, I
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    knew that she wouldn't probably be able to
    go to a private school, not only because
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    of the financial cost, but because
    they would not have to think about
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    best practices and the law when
    it came to accommodating
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    their students with disabilities,
    and so I knew we would be
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    looking at the public school, and the
    public school in our neighborhood
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    was not accessible. We went to visit it,
    the playground had a little house
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    that she wouldn't have been
    able to get into,
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    and it was really disheartening
    and so it came at a time
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    when we were already looking
    for other opportunities,
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    and my husband got an opportunity
    to move us as a family
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    to the West Coast
    of Portland of Oregon, and
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    so the way I...we had to
    navigate her early educational experiences
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    was to only look at spaces and schools
    that were in districts that were new,
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    so that had buildings
    and had training in terms of
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    accommodating their diverse students
    and their disabled students,
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    because just having the brief experiences
    that I did with the preschool
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    and IEP meetings that were going to
    require me to fight at every juncture
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    for her basic rights
    to show what she knows
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    and participate and recognize herself
    as a valuable contributor
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    to the school community.
    We're not going to be forthcoming
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    without a fight,
    and so we narrowed our search
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    to a district,
    and thank God we had the opportunity
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    and the resources to do this,
    that was pretty known for their
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    We did that also when we came back
    to the Cleveland, Ohio area.
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    We were able to avoid all districts
    that weren't at the cutting edge
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    of full inclusion and proof of excellence
    and had newer buildings
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    that could accommodate those
    with disabilities,
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    but I guess that that was my earliest
    memory of how, 'Oh, we have a road
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    ahead of us and we have to take it upon
    ourselves to either continue to fight
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    battles that had already been won,
    legislatively or find spaces, places
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    and organizations that were ahead
    of the curve
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    in terms of implementing, monitoring and
    just execute the basic civil rights
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    of their various constituents
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    The impact that all of that has had on me
    is to just be able to communicate
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    with other parents and students
    with disabilities
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    about not only knowing their rights but
    knowing how to get those rights
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    how to advocate for ensuring that those
    rights are addressed, are met.
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    I think the ADA has made
    a huge difference
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    and the aha moment was even when I was
    collating information for this book
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    on disability prejudice. I realized that
    when I was a kid,
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    when I was growing up in the 60's and
    70's, people with disabilities weren't
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    able to do any of the things that we took
    for granted as kids: go to the movies
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    go to restaurants, go to visit a friend,
    at a friend's house, or invite
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    others to your birthday parties.
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    And, since the ADA passed in 1990,
    it wasn't an immediate set of changes,
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    as, you know, there has been significant
    progress made, particularly in public
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    spaces and in employment settings,
    where there are even employers
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    who are part of an organization
    of inclusive excellence, who
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    recognize that disabled employees are
    actually more reliable and
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    have less turnover and are worth
    investing in and promoting.
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    But, there are still so many places,
    small businesses, educational institutions
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    that are not carrying out the basic,
    sort of gains and practices that the ADA
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    has made possible .There's just way too
    much variation, and I think part of that
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    is just a lack of education in
    terms of what
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    is reasonable and what is necessary
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    in terms of accommodating your citizenry
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    and lack of resources in some cases but
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    also a lot of misinformation about whether
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    or not it's worth it. You know,
    the ADA is going to
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    be 30 here in July. We're
    celebrating around
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    the country and we are still fighting
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    for businesses to do what they should have
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    done 30 years ago, those that have been
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    around this long. They have not, they have
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    have waited for complaints or they have
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    failed to do but the bare minimum in
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    terms of recruiting the largest minority
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    I work in the education sphere and to me,
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    we could be doing so much more with
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    advertising and recruiting for those kinds
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    of students that we tend to really, at
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    least my institution, do well to retain
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    because we're a small, intimate college,
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    Hiram College. And, and for
    years I've tried to sort of
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    encourage us to consider more universally
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    designed approaches, but also approaches
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    that do more than the bare minimum
    when it comes to housing and
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    extracurricular accommodations for
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    students to who use mobility devices. For
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    example, my daughter ended up having to be
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    carried in her chair, to various club
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    meetings while she was on the Hiram
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    College campus. She was told that,
    during the
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    winter, when the ice storms came, that
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    they couldn't transport her up the long
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    hill, while they were
    telling everyone
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    else to walk like a penguin, and we had
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    vans to do this. We had to file with the
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    Ohio Disability Rights Commission and
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    request that the school thinks about other
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    ways of accommodating her, should there
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    be a storm, an ice storm, and she can't
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    get up to campus.
    And the solution
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    was to have her move to a
    new dorm.
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    You can't just do that over night.
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    You can't just move all your bedding
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    and all your bathroom supplies
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    and your whole... you know at the moment's
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    notice, when the weather changes
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    and so it has been my experience that
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    still a lot of places have done
    the bare minimum approach
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    and think that that's all they need to do
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    when instead, they could be following more
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    of the latest practices and
    implementation's science
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    and making it easier for people to
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    register concerns or complaints. And
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    they often don't even need to file a
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    formal complaint issue, if you
    approach a business or
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    your educational institution
    with an issue.
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    Often times, progressive thinkers that
    recognize the value of
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    customers with disabilities frequenting
    their businesses or
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    diversifying their faculty or their
    student body
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    will simply not be aware that they have
    failed to accommodate or
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    make accessible various programs
    and spaces.
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    And that can be as simple as asking.
    But a lot of times a lot more
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    has to be done, you have to document
    you have
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    to make sure your emails go to
    multiple people
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    and make the business case of why
    surveying your policies
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    to see whether they are biases or whether
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    there is discrimination in filing of
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    complaints or even you have a title
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    of, you know, an officer on campus
    or ADA - cooridnator
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    so that you can let students
    with disabilities know
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    who may have not proper documentation
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    how they can go about making sure that
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    they get what they need to show
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    what they know, before they fail classes
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    because they haven't knocked at the door
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    of disability services and provided proof
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    that they have a particular condition
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    So I know, I am sort of rambling a bit,
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    but I just, just wasn't aware of how much
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    further we need to go when it comes to
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    surveying and making sure that the ADA
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    is being implemented and just because
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    a law passes doesn't mean again
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    that it is just going to happen
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    you have to have allies and acitivists
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    and insiders working very hard
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    to make sure that people are recognizing
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    the value of legislation
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    which I think, still people are under
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    the assumption that it applies to
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    people who identify with disabilities but
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    I don't think that was even neccesserely
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    even the intent of the ADA
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    I think it recognizes that people flow
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    in and out of abilities and the extent to
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    which they are excluded or discriminated
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    against, because of their abilities is
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    really what this legislation was about
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    even having a record of having a
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    condition that maybe you no longer have
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    or you had it temporarily can mean that
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    you might be excluded. If you applied for
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    jobs recently, you know, many places
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    require a statement. You have to indicate
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    based of strict definitions whether you
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    have limitations in these major life
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    activities that will qualify you as a
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    disabled person and I want to believe that
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    they are asking these questions, so that
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    they can mindfully recruit people with
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    disabilities joining their ranks, their
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    staffing, but sometimes I think what
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    prevents people from using that
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    information to disqualify candidates
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    so there has to be checks and balances
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    and accountabilities when it comes to
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    making sure your civil rights legislation
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    doesn't put all of the owners on the
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    group itself to file and follow through
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    and figure out which parts of the ADA are
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    being violated. You know that can be
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    really discouraging when all you want to
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    do is go out and you know, go to the beach
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    and find out which beaches are accessible
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    or whether there is, you know, a mobility
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    devices that are availible via the sand or
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    you just want to go camping or you just
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    want to go frequent people who are
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    minorities on businesses or disabilities
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    on businesses and some of this is out
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    there and I tried to promote it through
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    books and activists pages, but there is so
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    much that we can do to leverage more of
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    these ways of monitoring and implementing
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    taking access to the next level whether
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    for the disabled community pro forma or
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    proper or for anyone who uses strollers
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    who might carry a lot of materials in
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    their hands could benefit from a push
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    button. I think we need all to make a
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    better job at making the business and the
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    other benefit cases for improving our ADA
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    access. Where my passions lie of late is
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    in getting out the votes because we know
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    that disabled people have been
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    disenfranchised from the vote and from
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    parenting and from all kind sorts of other
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    basic human rights but this being an election
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    year there is all kinds of folks working
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    to crip the vote, #cripthevote Alice Wong
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    and others who have been trying to make
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    sure that candidates for president and for
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    congressional offices and even local
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    campaigns are expressing what their stance
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    is on the ADA and on disability rights and
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    human rights and hold, for the first
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    time we've seen some traction on that.
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    But what people don't realize is how many
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    places are not accessible to voters with
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    disabilities either because they use
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    assisted technologies that don't
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    interphase with the electronic equipement
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    or they can't get accessible transportation
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    or the place itself is simply inaccessible
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    or they are institutionalized and barred
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    from voting because of that and so the
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    center fro American progress has been
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    publishing some of the numbers, like over
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    60% of polling places are considered
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    inaccessible. That's a problem. So voting
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    by mail may benefit a lot of groups if
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    you think of some of that in the future.
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    And then the second big issue we should
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    follow up on that not many people know
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    about and that I am not even so clear of
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    how is the ADA serves the population of
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    people who are incarcerated in jails and
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    in prisons and in institutions. I know the
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    ADA amendments have been 2009 done a
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    better job of successfully helping folks
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    litigate when they are isolated and there
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    for not included because of their
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    institutionalized placements, but also
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    I am aware that not many people know about
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    the number, the sheer number of people
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    with disabilities visible and a lot of
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    invisible who are incarcerated and who are
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    caught up in that system of jailing and
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    aren't getting what they need inside or
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    should have never been incarcerated to
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    begin with bacause mayve they experience
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    a condition that was misunderstood from
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    the outset and so instead of deescalating
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    a situation. Police need more training, we
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    need to make the public more aware of how
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    many people are languishing in the
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    institutions where they are not only not
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    productive, but you know what a waste of
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    human capital. So, as we think about
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    the black lives matter movement and the
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    opportunities for intersectionality, I
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    think the opportunities for allies of all
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    kinds of civil rights groups need to come
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    together and really leverage their powers
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    to begin to think about not necessarily
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    about defunding police or the incarcerating
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    institutions but recognizing how many
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    people of color have disabilities, how many
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    women are how many are incarcerated with
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    disabilities that may not even belong there
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    so there is so much to be done on those
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    two funds alone. And, clearly employment
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    people are still way under employed but I
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    know there are folks working to improve
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    that and I am trying to work with those
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    organizations to araise awareness about
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    how they can do better in terms of
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    their work force and retaining and
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    retaining and recruiting actively
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    professionals who, you know, they may not
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    consider as a valuable resource but gosh
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    people with disabilities are so of the
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    most creative folks because they have to
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    figure out how navigate and they do have
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    persepctives that are normally based on
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    maybe their particular
    impairment experinces
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    but having to navigate the world that
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    isn't accessible, how to find the backdoor
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    how to find the policies and so there is a
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    lot of resilience to be found there, too.
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    We need to be asking community members to
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    confront ableism when they see it and part
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    of that is educating people on the various
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    forms that disability prejudice
    and discrimination can take.
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    There is an interesting moment right now
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    with regard to anti-racism frameworks
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    that are getting a lot of traction and
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    people are beginning to, at least
    educational institutions,
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    start teaching circles where many of us
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    are reading Ibram Kenids book how to be an
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    anit-racist, how to first recognize when
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    prejudice and discrimination exist on the
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    bases of race, that we could also be doing
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    with books related to disability prejudice
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    and abilism but I really think the moment
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    is now to consider some of the things at
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    the same time because I think we may loose
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    nuances of people who are confronting
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    multiple oppressions. Though, I am just
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    bringing that up because I know there is a
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    lot of folks at my school now thinking
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    about that we review policies to find out
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    (...) discriminatory
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    our policies for recruitment may have
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    things embedded or cooked into the
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    algorithms that are unintentionally
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    excluding or failing to retain or promote
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    those with disabilities at our institutions
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    and so, when I think about the next steps
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    what people can do I come back to, you know
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    when people say something and they may
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    just not know, they are not familiar
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    perhaps with folks with
    various disabilities
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    and we know that contact with people who
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    experienced disabilities and differences
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    is what makes people less prejudice
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    because they come much more aware of the
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    whole person and our stereotypes are not
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    generalize-able and how if they listened
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    to the voices of disabled people they can
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    hear first hand what is problematic and
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    we need to be doing by allowing folks with
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    disabilities to speak, to be heard and
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    then to support their agendas and not
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    necessarily just take over.
    So, the confrontation
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    literature is all about not necessarily
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    saying: "Hey, you are a jerk. You just said
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    something racist or ableist" and putting
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    people on their defensive heels. That we
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    can do this in ways that actually open up
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    dialogues and that we should be
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    encouraging difficult dialogues and brave
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    conversations around what we can do
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    locally in our houses, in our communities
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    in our schools and organizations to make
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    one change, to make one difference: to ask
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    what is our policy, do we know whether all
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    of our employees know what their rights
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    are, should we be scheduling regular
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    meetings with the ADA coordinator, do
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    folks know how to find information and how
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    to request a accommodation. Would it be
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    great if parents went into an IEP Meeting
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    at their schools, knowing what their kids
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    got as accommodations. I think people are
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    so non forthcoming at organizations with
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    the things that they view as
    special privileges that are
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    only for those who, quote on quote, need
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    it or deserve it. And when we look at
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    disability rights as special privileges,
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    we don't see them as civil rights that are
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    required to be met and so we could be much
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    more transparent about making sure our
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    websites are not only
    accessible to navigate
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    if you have a sensory or other impairments
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    but to make explicit what the policy is
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    for requesting a accommodations, how you
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    not be fired for disclosing for example
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    how we can confront things in
    non-aggressive way.
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    To ask people when they say something
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    pejorative or maybe just outdated, you
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    know, the word "handicap" is still out
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    there i call it "handicrap", the word
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    "special"' and we can just ask " what do
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    you mean by that, what do you mean that
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    they can't do that or that you curious
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    about that they have sex, can you tell me
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    more about why you think that and it can
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    start a dialogue and that is something we
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    can all do. I am still working hard to
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    make my own home accessible to my 24 year
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    old. We did construction to modify the
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    house when we first bought it is a single
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    level so that she feel like she was a part
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    of the family and be able to get to all
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    parts of the kitchen and her bathroom but
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    there you know the laundry room has one
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    step that we are still negotiating how to
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    make sure that she can get into garage but
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    things like where we put things in the
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    refrigerator. You know if you have a
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    wheelchair user in your family or someone
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    who is a little person who may have a
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    congenital or an otherwise amputated limb
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    and we put things on shelves without even
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    thinking about who can access the shelf
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    and my other child who happens to be abled
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    bodied would before dinner, you know, try
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    to get a snack and before we could even
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    say "no" he was out the door with the
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    snack. My daughter would have to come in
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    and say can I , can you get something of
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    the top shelf from me and then we would
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    say, you know, why don't you wait until
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    dinner time and we have to be mindful
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    about which drawers we want to put her
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    things into. She can't feel like a second
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    class citizen in her own family space and
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    those are some things that we can remind
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    our peers who have kids with disabilities
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    as we try to go on and educated another
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    parents in our parenting roles and our
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    roles as educators and who are diversity
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    committees. Our diversity committee now is
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    taking on accessibility as part of our
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    mental trying to convince others that we
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    need to be doing ongoing data collection
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    to benchmark, I think a lot of people are
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    afraid of data that might say "your campus
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    climate isn't the most accessible" but
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    unless you name the thing,
    unless you document the thing
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    that is perhaps of concern of a less then
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    fully inclusive or accessible, you can't
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    make progress. And, I think people
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    appreciate, you know, the one in four
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    or five people with disabilities and
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    their families appreciate when people say
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    "we are not there yet, but this is what we
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    are doing and in a short term we will have
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    reviewed our handbooks so that at least
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    this is done by this year and next year we
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    are going to advertise for positions in
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    places to increase the number of disabled
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    people on our staff, because students need
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    mentors. They need to see people that look
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    like them and then have similar challenges
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    so that they know what is possible, so I
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    just sort of conclude by
    saying my daughter,
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    you know, made it through preschool and
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    has been in several different kinds of
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    spaces on college campuses that aren't so
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    accessilble and that are. She is working
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    in the education as a preschool teacher
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    herself. But now since
    the covid-19 outbreak
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    she was laid off, she was furloughed from
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    her brand new job. And, of late she is
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    putting resumes back out and there must be
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    something about the pandemic now where not
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    many people are wanting to go back to work
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    in close encounters with kids. She is
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    getting one interview after another and so
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    she may end up with multiple offers now
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    and I remind her to tell the folks that
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    preschools when they get someone like her
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    on their staff so many students gravited
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    toward her because
    she has this visible signs
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    of her disability, her wheelchair and if
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    you can educate the youngs,
    the preschoolers and show them
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    people of all abilities can be teachers
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    and parents and ongoing learners, you know
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    they tend to even those kids with behavior
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    problems com to her. They see as this
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    beacon of hope, I think, that is a real
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    cue for employers who ever gets my
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    daughter as a teacher is going to be lucky.
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ABILITY Magazine

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