To put it simply, people with disabilities are people just like everyone else, so I think it’s important that we give reasonable accommodations where we can to create equitable opportunities so that people with disabilities don’t have to be held back from employment opportunities and being involved in their communities. I think it’s only fair, and I think that people with disabilities bring their unique perspectives to situations, which is important to have as well.
All of us have aspects of our lives, or times in our lives, where we are not at the same ability as everyone else, so when we design for people with disabilities, we’re designing for all of us. When I was in high school, I had a knee injury, and the principal gave me a key to use the elevator. This was an accommodation for people with disabilities, but it was also beneficial for me at that time.
When you’re walking on the sidewalk, and you’re pulling your luggage, or you’re pushing a stroller, or maybe you’re moving a refrigerator on a hand truck, you benefit from the curb cut ramps that were put there for people with disabilities. Gallaudet University is a school for the deaf, and in the 1890s, they were playing football against the New York School for the Deaf and the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (yes, the deaf schools had a football league). The teams communicated using American Sign Language, and that was out there for everybody to see. The Gallaudet team was concerned that the other team they were playing was understanding their plays, so the quarterback called the team together into a circle so that the other team couldn’t see what they were communicating. And the football huddle was created. This accommodation that was invented for people with disabilities is now important for everybody to use.
Sometimes an accommodation that we create for one disability can cause trouble for another. A ramp is beneficial for a wheelchair to get up and past stairs, but a person who has a stamina problem and can’t walk a long distance is not benefited by the ramp. When we do our designs, we need to consider all the different kinds of disabilities, and we need to provide options to accommodate everyone.
Disabled people should be given the same opportunities everyone else is given regardless of disability. We all deserve to be active parts of the communities where we share our talents and gifts with each other, learn from each other, and live active lives.