The Biden administration has placed disability inclusiveness at the forefront of its public-facing events. USA Today notes how the new President has made inclusivity a commitment and has prioritized people with disabilities at every event and meeting his administration has had with the public. While this is laudable, Americans living with disability are rightly asking the question as to whether these are simple gestures, or whether more serious, deep-rooted change is coming for disability rights in the USA. Access to healthcare is the most prominent battleground in this fight for representation and equal rights.
Americans living with disabilities are often disadvantaged when it comes to accessing the care they need the most. Take, for example, Americans diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP). As the Cerebral Palsy Network rightly asserts, CP is a complex condition that requires a range of medical interventions, including both physical and mental, and emotional therapies. Unfortunately, those diagnosed with CP often find barriers in accessing healthcare. A study published in the Journal of Cerebral Palsy found that the incidence rate of CP correlates to low socioeconomic standing and minority ethnic status. In short, children more at risk of being born with CP are also less likely to be able to access the care that they need. Legislation must be put in place to bridge this gap and get the healthcare children to need.
Representation in the workforce
For those diagnosed with disabilities who are able to work and earn money, the outlook is also not good. According to CNBC, the 61 million adults diagnosed with disabilities in the USA are twice as likely to be poor when compared to their non-disabled peers. Many of these people can and are able to work, but benefits and healthcare programs are biased against them in a way that prevents them from joining the workforce. Expanding workforce benefit schemes to enable people with disabilities to work is a crucial step in improving inclusivity.
Inclusivity in the new normal
One important factor underlying all current disability adjustments is the impact of COVID. The pandemic had severe impacts on Americans with disabilities, pushing them out of work in order to protect them from the virus – many people with disabilities were at greater risk. Now, Harvard Health Publishing has produced an analysis that shows the measures associated with the new normal – hand washing, mask-wearing, and greater use of digital services – can unfairly disadvantage those living with a disability. Addressing this must happen at a wider societal level. If the new normal is to be as it is, with extensive use of digital facilities and services key, they must be accessible to the disabled population. Ironically, remote working has removed many barriers to work that people living with disabilities had been confronted with – particularly physical barriers. Ensuring that the system works for this section of society should be imperative.
The new administration is making great steps in preaching inclusivity. However, with problems deep-rooted in the American work society, more can, and should, be done.