MA21 System Barriers

Implementing a 21st Century Disability Policy


1. Investment: Providing essential services for us and our families requires significant investment. The individual and societal payoff outweighs the financial cost.

2. Bureaucracy: By definition, public supports are administered through a “system”, but that system does not have to be overly-bureaucratic or onerous. To the contrary, the system should be transparent, flexible, collaborative, supportive, innovative, and straightforward.

3. “They-ism”: In considering people with disabilities, society at large tends to apply an “Us vs. Them” framework. This dynamic opens the door to discrimination, as accommodating “them” becomes a burden. Through public education, society can come to recognize our valued roles and understand that there is much more that connects us than separates us. Until then, discrimination and insensitivity will continue to be the rule rather than the exception, e.g., doctors failing to give us enough time (resulting in inferior medical care), employers refusing to (or resenting having to) provide accommodations, and people – in mass media and on the street – using “retard” like a garden-variety insult.

4. “Us-ism”: We and our loved ones are not immune to societal discrimination; in fact, we often internalize these prejudices. We and our families must learn not to be ashamed of who we are and of our appearance, vocalizations, communication difficulties or behaviors.

Next: Policy Foundations