Class & Disability

September 26, 2006 at 8:22 am Leave a comment

Economic class plays a very pervasive role in disability. The most obvious factor of course, is that many disabled people live in poverty, off federal subsidies or even in homelessness, unemployed or underemployed.

But beyond the surface there is a more insidious truth- conditions of poverty often cause disabilities. Lower income people are more likely to have disabilities- some of them are poor as a result of being disabled, but some are disabled as a result of being poor. In low-income neighborhoods, there is more exposure to toxic chemicals, that can cause brain-damage, learning disabilities, and disease. Also pregnant mothers who use drugs (alcohol as well as illegal ones) cause their children to be born with disabilities.

Finally, lower paid jobs tend to have a higher risk of injury. Also if someone cannot afford health care, they are only likely to get treatment for an injury or illness when it becomes extreme, early treatment which can be so crucial in slowing or even curing a medical condition is not affordable to many people, thereby worsening their condition, making their life more difficult and less employable.  Low-paying jobs are more likely to just fire you once you become disabled, rather than trying to accomodate the disability. Undocumented workers are not even entitled to worker’s compensation.

The number of disabled children born or diagnosed continues to increase- what relationship might this have to the increase in poverty, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor?

*Middle and upper-class parents can afford to have their children identified with learning disabilities, and get help at an earlier age. If the school district does not give appropriate services to their child, they can hire a lawyer and fight for their rights. The more money you have obviously, the wider range of treatment options and assistive technology you can afford. (*Even then only _some_ who would be considered middle-income can afford such service)

I know I would probably not be as successful as I am socially, academically and professionally if were not for much of the help I received that was accessible due to class privilege. I have noticed that many successful disabled people of relatively privileged backgrounds do not acknowledge this.

According to my research:

The federal government, it seems would rather put people on the disability rolls than fund community-based job programs. They would rather keep people in institutions and nursing homes than pay for personal care assistants so they can live independently. At least, that is the impression we get from how they spend our tax dollars.  Also many people need assistive technology in order to live independently and become more employable, but many of them cannot afford it.  Some 10 years after the passage of the ADA, our society still deems the empowerment of people with disabilities to lead independent lives not worth the investment. It’s rather strange too, considering paying for such services would actually be cheaper. I guess this is a reflection of the prejudice people still have.


Entry filed under: Class, Disability Rights.

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