Disability rights have come a long way since the ADA was created 30 years ago, yet recent news suggests that hard work may be undone. According to a recent CBS News report, an upcoming Supreme Court ruling may eradicate a wide body of law that protects the rights of disabled people against discrimination. Critics suggest that this is symptomatic of a general civil rights and inclusion trend that is moving away from providing full rights to the disabled people of America.
A base level
This could be damaging on multiple levels. People living with disability benefit to a huge extent from receiving a blend of therapies – physical and psychological – to help support their condition. According to the CP Family Network, this can even be transformative for children with cerebral palsy. Part of this is being able to become fully involved with society, even from a young age, and American Progress assert that not enough is being done – especially not in the convenience-focused post-pandemic age.
Disabled people face a huge range of problems from the fact that what’s being relied on is being digitized. W3 reports that a huge 98% of websites are not accessibility-focused. This means, for many people living with disability, the shift to digital services has diminished their independence.
Positive moves for disability rights
There is good news, however. A report by Disability Scoop outlined how, on July 27th, President Biden announced a $400m package of benefits would be made available to disabled people and advocacy organisations. The goal of this package is to improve the level of participation that people are able to have in society and to produce new standards of care. Perhaps most importantly, the package sought to help provide full voting rights by creating a system where disabled people are able to access voting facilities and receive full enfranchisement.
There appears to be a wider agenda in the halls of administration towards defending people living with disability. This is being seen both in terms of policy focuses, but also when it comes to the day-to-day lives of disabled people in America.
The general demand from federal agencies for disability law compliance is being seen in a few high level cases. Most notable is the Reuters-reported DoJ pursuit of Uber, who they allege has engaged in discriminatory practices by deliberately overcharging customers who have disabilities – specifically, users who require larger vehicles due to their mobility requirements.
Uber is a huge business, and while it’s seen plenty of controversy over its relatively short life, it remains a big player in the tech scene. The movement of the administration towards taking real action against alleged discriminatory actions by such firms is a move in the right direction. Unfortunately, this may not exactly be a bellwether when it comes to the wider federal policy on disability.
A blockage ahead?
Despite the positive tilt of the current administration, there are huge questions to be answered. Law magazine The Regulatory Review notes in particular the adverse impact that privacy laws have on disability needs. The data concerned with disability is often protected and sensitive in nature, as it concerns sensitive personal data, medical information, and, increasingly, private digital data associated with assistive tools. Finding a way for progressive disability law and privacy laws to interface is a major challenge for regulators.
There is hope on the horizon, then, but it must rectify short-term errors. It is arguable that disability protections are currently being stripped back. The federal administration have made positive noises about change, but these need to be backed up with long-term planning and goals.