By Tai of Allsup
The landmark civil rights legislation known as the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law on July 26, 1990. It bars discrimination and promotes equal access for individuals with disabilities to all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
Given the technological advances of the last two decades, if the Act was being drafted today, I think it would specifically mention the Internet. I believe people with disabilities should be able to surf the Web, too.
The Internet has become a “public place” where people hang out, chat with friends, shop, get and share news, work and play. However, only 54 percent of adults living with a disability use the Internet, compared with 81 percent of adults who report none of the disabilities listed in a 2010 Pew Research survey.
Studies show that, as a group, people with disabilities have the lowest rates of technology use. The problem, researchers often conclude, is barriers to access due to cost or design.
Surfing Can Be Costly
Americans living with disabilities are more likely than other adults to live in lower income households.
Computers and high-speed Internet access cost money. Add the expense of specialized software or other adaptive technology, and the cost to surf the Internet is often prohibitive, limiting access.
Some websites can only be navigated using a mouse, making it inaccessible to those who can’t manipulate one. Most Internet video or multimedia content is not captioned, so it is inaccessible to those with hearing impairments.
Custom Boards Offer The Best Ride
Just as real wave surfers maximize their thrills and performance when using custom surfboards designed specifically for them, individuals with disabilities can get more out of their Internet experience when they use products and services designed with their abilities in mind.
Inclusive product design—accommodating a wide range of user abilities and disabilities—allows people to better interact with technology in ways that work best for them. Enhancements to existing products, or assistive technology, can make it easier for people with vision, hearing, speech and other impairments to use currently available hardware and software.
As we mark the 24th anniversary of the ADA, I believe that ensuring people with disabilities have full and equal access to technology is critical to fulfilling the spirit and promise of the Act.
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By Tai of Allsup
Because July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s time to remind people that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It affects people from all walks of life―rich and poor, black and white, male and female, gay and straight.
People, however, do discriminate. Our societal norms define good and bad, normal and strange, desirable and shameful. Norms and perceptions are influenced by our ethnic identities and cultural experiences. The stigma around mental illness is a huge barrier to acceptance and treatment. Add the institutional and personal biases inherent in our healthcare system and society at large, and discrimination, both on the part of patients and healthcare providers, becomes a factor.
Mental illness is a leading cause of disability, yet nearly two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment. Racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. are even less likely to get help, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
The result, according to NAMI, is that American Indians, Alaska Natives, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Hispanic Americans bear a disproportionately high burden of disability from mental disorders.
According to the 2001 Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity, disparities in mental health were found in:
- Access to services. Barriers include lack of health insurance and stigma.
- Accuracy of diagnoses. Minority patients tend to receive a lower quality of care, and they are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for mental illness.
- Level of cultural competency, proficiency and recovery/type of treatment. One-size fits all does not apply when it comes to culturally appropriate and effective treatment.
- Comparative effectiveness. Treatments that work well for one group may not work well for another. More research on the effectiveness of treatments for different ethnic and racial groups is needed.
- Location of services. Minority communities often have fewer sources of healthcare than non-Hispanic white communities or none at all (Institute of Medicine, 2003).
Another key finding of the Surgeon General’s report is that living in poverty has the most measurable effect on the rates of mental illness. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the highest national poverty rates are for American Indians and Alaska Natives (27 percent), African Americans (26 percent), Hispanics (23 percent) and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (18 percent). This is compared to a 14 percent rate for the U.S. population overall.
Mental illness may not discriminate, but discrimination is certainly a factor when it comes to addressing and treating it in minority populations.
If you or a friend or family member has stopped working because of the impact of a mental health disorder, contact Allsup for a free disability evaluation for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits at (800) 678-3276.