Close your eyes and imagine. What if, by no fault of your own – nothing you did, you were denied access because an immovable barrier is blocking you… in front of your house, your job, your school, your car, a public park, or a recreation facility?

What if someone was rude to you because they were uncomfortable about the way you look? What if you were told that you had to pay extra to enjoy the same sports or theater program because of your difference? What if you were told that they only had housing for three people in a complex that housed 100, and none were available for you for at least three to five years?

Would you be angry? Would you be sad? Would you be ready to call your legislator? How would you feel?

Myrna Clayton created the nonprofit, SHOWAbility, in 2009 after witnessing a young boy with cerebral palsy struggle to get on stage to sing. Once he began singing, his disability was no longer the focus; rather, it shifted to his beautiful voice. Compelled to counteract unintended limitations in the arts for persons with disabilities, SHOWAbility’s mission-centered programs started with talent shows and now provide innovative, creative, forward-thinking programming that educates, inspires, and builds performance confidence on stage, in film, and behind the camera.

Well, this is not an imaginary experience for people with disabilities (PwD) and their families. The disability community is the largest minority community in the country (26 percent — 1 in 4) and the only minority population that anyone can join at any time. If you add just one family member to this percentage, this means that over half of the U.S. population is impacted by the disability community. Yet, our legislators continue to minimize the rights of this population that crosses all demographic classifications: age, race, gender, nationality, and socio-economics.

It is not a contagious matter, yet, many people fight, scatter or freeze when a person with disabilities comes around. Yes, admittedly, I give us an out because we were all taught from childhood not to point or stare, which I believe resulted in this community of people being invisible — hidden in plain view. We don’t realize that these human beings and just like every other human being, with the same basic hopes and dreams.

However, this is not the case. For example, HUD provides only 3% of its housing for ADA compliant, and this is mobility-only related as if blind/deaf, sensory issues do not require special accommodations, many independent PwD under 55 have no choice but to stay at a senior nursing home because of the level of minimal care provided – there is no other housing option available, most theatre stages are not accessible for artists, and many don’t accommodate ADA family seating, and ADA transportation in urban areas are rampant with problems but they are “the best-looking kid in an ugly family” of transit options in Georgia. I could go on and on, but I think you get my point.

All of this, and yet this dynamically vibrant population, has a discretionary spending power ($21B) larger than Black and Latino populations combined ($19B). In honor of the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law by President George Bush in 1990, human rights for this vibrant population of dynamic human beings are long overdue.

And just in case you thought otherwise, this is not a local, state, or USA issue; this is a global dilemma — 1.3 billion people have a disability worldwide. Disability Rights are Human Rights!

Would you like to write a guest column for SaportaReport? The SR team strives to uplift and amplify the diverse perspectives in our community, and we want to hear from you! Email Editor Derek Prall to discuss the specifics.

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