Ada Fisher: Policy changes could help handicapped

Published 10:30 am Saturday, December 25, 2021

By Ada Fisher

The life of the late Senator Robert “Bob” Joseph Dole is a poignant reminder of the need to recommit to the welfare of the disabled.

Dole along with several others formed the legislation for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The long name for this provision was an act to establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability, which was to stop the denial of access to jobs, schools and transportation to those who were handicapped.

All of this sounded good, with the changes to walkways, egress to buildings and seeming convenience made available for those with many of their financial unmet needs reasonably addressed. The pandemic spotlights major problems for those with limited ability to get around or without the wherewithal to afford the manpower, food, clothing and apparatuses which make it a bit more convenient to meet their needs.

Terrorism concerns already hampered the availability of parking near buildings to the extent that handicapped spaces are often too far for those with limited mobility to reach. A call mechanism to request help would make good sense for the Postal Service as well as for large businesses and hospitals to help clients access facilities. If people would often come out to cars to help us get in to receive their services, it would allow folks to maintain their independence in living arrangements.

The hierarchy of needs focusing on food, clothing and shelter were tackled bit by bit previously, but the design of buildings still lacks what would work best. The incline on ramps is often too steep for those without motorized chairs or a people-powered assist. Doors which open outward require too much energy to enter with a wheel chair, cane or walker when a sliding door with automatic eye would be preferred. Traversing steps is often difficult when special elevators would be better.

Often unappreciated is that handicapped toilets are at the back of the line rather than conveniently near the door. Enlarging the size of stalls to accommodate wheel chairs and increasing the space for such would limit the need for parents with children to hog these facilities or allow for those with unisex needs to have their privacy met.

Better spacing of bathrooms in large hotels and public facilities is also a major need because full bladders often can’t endure the walk or roll.

Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, a section which was written in 1938 law, permits employers to pay sub-minimum wages to workers who have disabilities. This amounts to almost 200,000 workers receiving less than the hourly minimum wage per Department of Labor data. Unfortunately, the disabled have an added problem because many face supplemental needs that aren’t covered — housekeeping assistance, supplemental assistive devices, etc. Tax write-offs or deductions for such might help. Medicare part H — for help to meet the activities of daily living — should be considered.

Cars adapted to meet the needs of handicapped drivers are often more expensive. Houses with stairs or closely configured bathrooms and kitchens are often an adaptive nightmare. Dual railings attached to the studs would help in negotiation of stairs. So, would elimination of humped thresholds to provide a smoother walking surface.

Such situations might be helped by an assistive aid tax break for users and builders. Architectural design consideration is needed on these subjects, too, with test drives by the handicapped through the models before their approval.

The pandemic highlights areas where a new look is called for in our practices affecting transportation, buildings and service needs for the handicapped. If done correctly, they would also better help the able bodied.

Salisbury’s Ada M. Fisher served as N.C. Republican National Committeewoman from 2012 to 2020, was a medical director in a Fortune 500 company, served on the Rowan County Board Of Education and worked as a secondary education teacher.