»

Blog Action Day 2014: Inequality & Disability

Leave a Comment

Blog Action Day 2014 - Inequality

This is the second year I have had the Ramp Your Voice! blog participate in Blog Action Day.  (Last year’s theme was about human rights.)  This year’s theme revolves around inequality, and this theme undeniably fits into the focus of RYV!  On the blog, I have written countless articles about inequality as it relates to disability, from difficulty accessing health care services; how we are viewed by society as less than and second class individuals; and the misconceptions surrounding our sexuality and the effects those ideals have on us and our ability to relate to others.

For #BAD2014, I decided to take the approach of providing a brief rundown of the most common barriers people with disabilities are subjected to that unfairly disadvantage us.  Though I am certain that my readers are familiar with some (if not all) of these issues, I wanted to provide a mini overview for those who may find this article in the Blog Action Day tags online.

Worldwide Inequalities Impacting People with Disabilities:

To understand what inequalities the largest minority group in the world endures, we must first take a glimpse into the barriers they face, particularly disabled women and girls, disabled children, and those living in poverty.  The United Nations (UN) has a great “fact sheet” of statistics about the global disabled experience, and I felt that it had eye-opening findings to share:

The Global Disabled Community:

  • Around 15 percent of the world’s population, or an estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities.  They are the world’s largest minority.
  • This figure is increasing through population growth, medical advances, and the aging process.
  • In countries with life expectancies of over 70 years of age, individuals spend on average about 8 years, or 11.5 percent of their lifespan, living with disabilities.

Women & Girls:

  • In most OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, women report higher incidents of disability than men.
  • Women with disabilities are recognized to be multiply disadvantaged, experiencing exclusion on account of their gender and their disability identities.
  • Women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse, including physical violence, sexually assault, and forced sterilization.

Children:

  • According to UNICEF, 30 percent of street youths have some kind of disability.
  • Mortality for children with disabilities may be as high as 80 percent in countries where under-five years of age mortality as a whole has decreased below 20 percent.  It has been noted that in some cases, it seems as if disabled children are being “weeded out.”

Poverty:

  • Eighty percent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries.
  • 20 percent of the world’s poorest people have some kind of disability, and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged.

Education:

  • Disability rates are significantly higher among groups with lower educational attainment in the countries of the OECD.
  • On average, 19 percent of less educated people have disabilities, compared to 11 percent among the better educated.
  • The global literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as 3 percent, and 1 percent for women with disabilities.
  • Ninety percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school.
  • In the OECD countries, students with disabilities in higher education remain under-represented, although their numbers are on the rise.

Employment:

  • An estimated 386 million of the world’s working-age people have some kind of disability,
  • Unemployment among the persons with disabilities is as high as 80 percent in some countries.
  • Often, and erroneously,  employers assume that persons with disabilities are unable to work.

Violence:

  • For every child killed in warfare, three are injured and acquire a permanent form of disability.
  • In some countries, up to a quarter of disabilities result from injuries and violence.
  • Persons with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence or rape, and less likely to obtain police intervention, legal protection, or preventive care.
  • Violence against children with disabilities occurs at annual rates at least 1.7 times greater than for children without disabilities.

Disability Legislation:  

  • Comparative studies on disability legislation shows that only 45 countries have anti-discrimination and other disability-specific laws.

Other Key Inequalities that People with Disabilities Experience:  

The information from the fact sheet explained the primary barriers that those with disabilities endure globally, but I wanted to highlight a few factors that hit close to home for me, and many that I know, who are disabled:

Public Perception

While the public perception of disabled people has improved, there are still those who are not tolerant of those with disabilities.

For example, in a study, about 15 percent of survey respondents said disabled people were not “the same as everybody else,” while 7 percent said they “get in the way.”

Transportation & Building Access

Disabled individuals may have difficulty finding adequate transportation options or gaining access to buildings, despite policies being in place that mandate their inclusion in accessing public transportation services and utilizing public buildings.

Communication

Whether it is not being able to type on the small screen of a cellphone or understanding how to interpret social cues in a conversation, disabled individuals can face many challenges when it comes to communication and expressing themselves to and with others.

Healthcare Disparities for Those with ID/DD

People with intellectual disabilities experience greater health inequalities in comparison to those in the general population.  Although their life expectancy has increased, it remains much lower than the rest of the public.  Additionally, people with intellectual disabilities tend to have higher levels of health care needs than others; these needs oftentimes go unrecognized, which causes them to experience barriers in accessing necessary and appropriate health care and social services.  People with intellectual disabilities are unfairly placed in psychiatric hospitals that are usually inappropriate to properly care for and address their needs.

Paying Special Attention to the Inequalities Minorities with Disabilities Endure:

People with disabilities have always been excluded from the bounty of our nation’s resources.  Minorities with disabilities, in particular, have been the most disenfranchised of the disenfranchised.  It is time that we bring them into the fold as full, first-class participants in our society.

– Rev. Jesse Jackson

Being that the driving force behind RYV! is discussing the challenges minorities with disabilities, especially women, face as members of two oppressed groups, I would be remiss if I did not share this subpopulation’s barriers.  One barrier in particular I will focus on is health disparities, which are higher for people with disabilities and are exacerbated when both race and disability are included.

Health Disparities for Minorities with Disabilities

Fair to Poor Health:

31 percent of people with disabilities report fair or poor health in comparison to 6 percent of the general population.

Among adults with a disability, 55.2 percent of Hispanic persons, and 46.6 percent of African Americans report being in or having fair or poor health, as compared with 36.9 percent of whites.

Mental Health:

African Americans with severe mental health disabilities are less likely than whites to access mental health services, more likely to drop out of treatment, more likely to receive poor-quality care, and more likely to be dissatisfied with care.

Asian Americans and Hispanics are less than half as likely as whites to receive mental health treatment.

Accessing a Physician:  

15 percent of people with disabilities report not seeing a doctor due to costs, in comparison to 6 percent of the general population.  At the same time, adults with annual household incomes of less than $25,000 are more likely to report having a disability than adults with an annual household income equal to or greater than $25,000.  People with disabilities and members of racial minorities often share socioeconomic characteristics and related health access barriers due to the expense of maintaining health with a disability.

Unique Challenges for Women of Color with Disabilities

Women of color with disabilities appear to experience the greatest health disparities and difficulty accessing appropriate health care services.  They tend to have lower incomes and poorer health, and to be less educated in comparison to white women with disabilities.

Among women of color with disabilities, African American women appear to experience the greatest health disadvantages.

Final Thoughts:

Blog Action Day 2014 means that it was imperative that I took the time to discuss some of the inequalities that people with disabilities face both domestically and abroad.  Educating my readers and the public is a surefire way to jumpstart dialogue about what steps be done to ameliorate or extinguish such inequalities and barriers.  If we fail to communicate what is truly happening to this population, then how will we effectively lead calls of action for change?  Blog Action Day 2014 is about opening our eyes, and rolling up our sleeves to prepare to do the dirty work of enacting equality and justice for all – let’s get started!

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Blog Action Day.)

Special side note:  This is the 75th blog article on the RYV! blog!  Can you believe it?!?!  🙂

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

Leave a Reply