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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Community Choice Act and Who is Disabled

Yesterday I got a few emails about the Community Choice Act. I have written about the CCA in the past. Today, Iowa Sen. Harkin and Illinois Congressman Davis will join disability rights activists and introduce the CCA. In the view of many, the CCA is needed to empower people with a disability. The CCA will provide disabled people an opportunity to live as independently as humanly possible and overcome needless social and economic barriers that force people into institutions. Essentially the CCA eliminates the nursing home mentality and bias. The CCA permits people with disabilities who need assistance the choice of receiving services and support in their home or community rathe than an institution.

I have no idea if the CCA will be made the law. Sadly, I am not hopeful in large part because the meaning of disability and its social consequences is not well understood. In calling for the passage of the CCA Nick's Crusade wrote the following:

Who is more disabled? The successful banker who happens to be quadriplegic, and gets up each weekday (with the help of assistants) and goes to work, contributing to the community and pulling down over $100,000 a year? Or the dude who still lives in his mom’s basement, who can do chin-ups, run and jump, but is unwilling or unable to contribute to society? Who is more disabled?

Anyone who uses a wheelchair is the archetype for disability. I am that archetype and yet in many ways I am not disabled in any way. Sure I cannot walk but walking is overrated and my wheelchair is an empowering adaptive device. The inability to walk has not prevented me from doing any of the things I wanted to do. I got married (and divorced), had a child, and remain steadily employed. The problems I have encountered since I began using a wheelchair are man made--American culture imposes social, economic, and political hardships on top of an existing physical deficit, in my case paralysis. The CCA will go a long way to undermine the hardships people with a disability encounter. The CCA will empower people with a disability so that they can be an integral part of their community. It will help prevent people with a disability from needlessly ending up in an institution. This is great but requires a more nuanced view of the social implications of disability. I hope people are willing to listen to Sen Harkin and Congressman Davis and I wish them well today.


yanub said...

William, is there something about the bill itself that leads you to suspect it will fall short of the mark, or is it social constructs themselves which make you believe the bill will not be implemented as intended? Thanks in advance for the further explanation.

william Peace said...

Yanub, I have read the bill and see no problem with it whatsoever. I worry that the nursing home industry will push hard to make sure the bill does not pass. When one combines this with the inherent disability based prejudice in this country I have little hope it will pass. Thus more people with a disability are doomed to an institutional life. This is a disgrace in the post ADA world.