QWhat do you feel is the
greatest issue confronting
the disability community today?
Alan Muir: The lack of cohesiveness of the community to gain an
equal footing in society. One of the
causes is the medical profession
segmenting the disability community by their diagnoses. A person
who is blind has the perception
his experience is different than a
person who is a wheelchair user or
who may have a behavioral health
issue. They all experience discrimination, but it may manifest in different ways. The discrimination is
based on the fact that anyone with
a disability is different from what
is considered “normal.”
Nancy J. Bloch: The biggest issue is
attitude. Well-meaning individuals make assumptions about what
people can or cannot do, or might
act in paternalistic ways. Deaf people go to college, hold jobs, raise
families and pursue interests—just
like people who can hear.
Rene David Luna: Poverty and
employment are major reasons
why people with disabilities are
segregated and dependent on “
special programs.” Greater employment opportunities would allow
for significant change within the
Gary Arnold: Increased exposure
in popular culture and media about
people of short stature delivers
the message that dwarfism is a
natural part of human existence
and that people of short stature are
no different from others. Even so,
in some cases, traditional stigma
around dwarfism and difference
continues to send the message
that if you have dwarfism, there is
something wrong with you. Evidence of the stigma can be found
in a recent survey of clinicians,
many who reportedly would refuse
to implant an embryo carrying the
gene for dwarfism, even if requested by a prospective parent.
QWhat misconceptions do
many companies have
about dealing with customers
Arnold: There is often a disconnect
between the disability community and the community at large.
Many people don’t treat people
with disabilities as if they are full
participants and contributors.
Rather, they are treated as a
separate group with special needs.
While people with disabilities may
need accommodations, there is
nothing special about the person
or the accommodation that would
prevent the person from making
a significant contribution if given
an equal opportunity.
Luna: Many businesses have fears
about people with disabilities.
Many believe reasonable accommodations might be too costly or
that they might alter their business environment. They fear the
cost of health insurance and other
benefits. They also fear any liabilities due to any legal claims that
might be brought against them.
For the most part, these are unreasonable. The costs for accommodations are minimal and the
environment is actually enhanced
by the skills, talent and diversity
of people with disabilities.
Susan Connors: If the disability
is not visible, most people think
it doesn’t exist. Brain injuries are
hidden but they impact the way
information and emotions are processed. Responses can be slowed
or can seem inappropriate to the
current situation. Even if you don’t
use a wheelchair, you may need
extra time or special help.
Steve Bennett: Many companies
believe people with disabilities
can’t comprehend basic
information and are unable to
handle everyday situations and
interactions without assistance.
This is entirely untrue. Many
individuals with disabilities
are more than capable of
understanding basic and complex
information, are ambitious, and
Vice President of Public Relations
Little People of America (LPA)
President and Chief Executive Officer
United Cerebral Palsy
NANCY J. BLOCH,
Chief Executive Officer
National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
Chief Executive Officer
Brain Injury Association of America
Epilepsy Foundation’s Jeanne A.
Carpenter Epilepsy Legal Defense Fund
RENE DAVID LUNA, Community and
Economic Development Team Leader
Career Opportunities for Students
with Disabilities (COSD)