By Nicholas Pasion
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The pandemic has amplified accessibility disparities for people living with disabilities. In an effort to correct inequities, the public relations firm DH hosted an online webinar event on June 3, which examined ways to increase accessibility and inclusion for people of all abilities.
The free webinar was moderated by four speakers, Eva Larrauri de Leon, John McClure, Sara Cravens, and Tammi Olson, all of whom are associated with the University of Washington (UW)’s Center for Continuing Education in Rehabilitation (CCER). The webinar focused on how to create more accessible spaces for people with disabilities, and encouraged people to adopt behavior and language to support people with disabilities.
“Everyone may have different needs and in order to be inclusive, we must be intentional and make this a practice. It benefits all types of learners,” said Larrauri de Leon, the CCER assistant director of programs.
She added that the focus of accessibility is making sure a product or event can be accessed by people of all abilities. She said there are two primary types of accessibility: communication and physical. She explained that by creating accessible communication and physical spaces, by adding things like subtitles to your presentations and ramps or elevators to buildings, people of all abilities will have a more enjoyable and engaging experience.
According to an assessment conducted by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Washington State Rehabilitation Council, 908,818 individuals with disabilities live in Washington state, about 13% of the population. Of the total number of people with a disability in Washington, about 4.6% of them are Asian.
The assessment also found that of the people in Washington with a disability, the most common disability was an ambulatory disability, which impedes or prevents someone from walking. The next most common disabilities the report found were cognitive difficulty, independent living difficulty, hearing difficulty, vision difficulty, and self-care difficulty.
Larrauri de Leon said the saying “Nothing About Us Without Us!” is a call to action for people with disabilities, which encourages them to take control of the narrative and control their voice on the subject. She said by including people with disabilities in conversations about accessibility, the general public can construct a more accessible world.
Linda Celemon-Karp, the interim assistant director and continuing education specialist at the Northwest ADA Center, a center that provides accessibility information, training, and guidance to people in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, said there are ways to change your behavior to better accommodate and respect people with disabilities.
Celemon-Karp said that people should retire certain insensitive terms from their everyday language and adopt new ones, like “man with an intellectual disability,” “woman of short stature,” or “man who uses a wheelchair.” She said that they will also “retire the whole idea of normal and able bodied and regular and that would imply that people with disabilities are not normal.
“So the very first thing is don’t make assumptions. Don’t make assumptions about someone looking like they’re non-disabled and they actually are disabled,” she said. “And also when you see someone who is clearly disabled, you can recognize that we don’t want to make assumptions about what they can and can’t do.”
She said people with disabilities do not live tragic lives, so when talking to a person with a disability, one should maintain the same tone and behavior as if they were talking to anyone else. Celemon-Karp said that if the disability does not come up in conversation then there is no need to mention it.
“Doing the uncomfortable thing is part of making those connections with people with disabilities that you might not have made before,” she said. “Because it can be uncomfortable at first, you get used to it.”
Nicholas can be reached at email@example.com.