People with Physical Disability Requiring a Wheelchair

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This paper defines people living with a disability requiring a wheelchair, history of the oppression experienced by these people as well as a history of social justice efforts on their behalf.  It also looks at the progress made for these people and the setbacks accompanying this progress. It also focuses on determining the present status of these people and future projections for social justice movements for people with physical disabilities requiring a wheelchair.

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People with Physical Disability Requiring a Wheelchair

A physical disability is one that affects the person’s mobility (movement) or dexterity (skill in performing tasks, especially with the hands). These may be as a result of conditions at birth, injuries or medical conditions. Physical disabilities that require wheelchairs are those that affect one’s mobility.  These include disabilities such as arthritis, amputation, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries, which may lead to quadriplegia or paraplegia, neuromuscular disorders, and fibromyalgia.  

In ancient societies such as the nomadic tribes, the disabled were considered useless as they could not contribute in activities such as hunting and gathering. They also believed that disability was as a result of evil spirits within the person. Such people would be left behind to die whenever there were movements to new areas or regions. 

Early Christianity was a bit more sympathetic towards the disabled due to Judaic teachings on charity and believed disability could be corrected through prayer. This was not the case during the middle-ages. Belief in supernaturalism was on the rise and Christians began to view disability as evil manifestation; they developed a fear for the disabled while others even persecuted them.  It even became a cause for ridicule such as the court jesters; fools who were considered funny and were used to entertain nobles, who were sometimes the disabled.

Renaissance revolutionized medicine and treatment for the disabled; the disabled were able to acquire education and the people’s attitude towards the disabled changed a great deal. The society embraced the idea of educating the disabled as a way of helping them through “special” schools; that is, in areas away from the rest of the people.

Rehabilitation came as a federal program after World War 1 with special emphasis on war veterans returning to the US with disabilities. This changed in the 1800s with the emergence of capitalism where economy focused only on making a profit; employers viewed the disabled as a “problem” and non-profitable.  In the 1930s in Germany, 100,000 disabled People (inferiors) became the Nazi’s first victims.  Following Hitler’s ideology of “racial purity”, the disabled were butchered (Willi & Alicia, 2014).

It is also during this period that advancements in technology, as well as government assistance in the US, led to self-reliance and sufficiency of the disabled.  In the 1940s and 1950s, World War 11 veterans with disabilities put more pressure on the government to provide rehabilitation attracting the support of citizens who were concerned and thankful to the young men who offered themselves for their safety in the army.

Civil rights movements started emerging in the 1960s. With the help of other minority groups, they demanded equal treatment, equal opportunities as well as equal access for the disabled.  Disability rights activists, in the 1970s, influenced the Congress and demonstrated in Washington for the inclusion of civil rights language for the Rehabilitation Act.  This Act was later passed in 1972, which meant protection of civil rights of the disabled by law.  The Rehabilitation Act of  1973( section 504) provided equal employment opportunity within the government and in government-funded programs, the establishment of Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, mandating equal access to public services to the disabled as well as financial assistance for vocational training.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed in 1975; granting children with disability equal access to public education.  Another milestone in the fight for the disabled was in 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. The act mandated businesses to provide appropriate accommodations for the disabled, with modifications for their easy accessibility.

Despite the challenges faced in the fight for the rights of people with wheelchair disabilities, there has been a lot of progress in terms of changing people’s attitude towards  these people as well as helping them access services easily. Such changes include reservation of packing space for the disabled in malls and bathrooms equipped for wheelchair users.

There have also been setbacks in terms of such laws being enacted in developing countries.  Although people are more knowledgeable about the challenges faced by people with disabilities, little attention is given to these challenges as they are considered a minority. Most people with these disabilities do not even have access to wheelchairs due to their poverty levels. In addition, due to stigmatization, most of them resort to begging due to lack of employment or access to proper education.

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Even with the enactment of laws such as ADA, people with wheelchair disabilities remain uneducated, unemployed and live in abject poverty. This is mainly because of the socioeconomic status of most countries and societies. It affects the person’s overall health and well-being.  Poverty, lack of education, poor health is all as a result of low socioeconomic status. This is also as a result of unequal distribution of resources. 

Research has shown that in a large population of people aged 65 years or older, 20.9 percent of those without disabilities did not complete high school in comparison with 25.1 percent and 38.6 percent of people with non-severe and severe disabilities respectively who did not complete high school (Steinmetz, 2006).  This is a clear indication that people with disabilities still do not have access to proper education.

People with wheelchair disabilities have challenges accessing proper health care due to problems such as transportation, communication and insurance (Drainoni et al., 2006). This is also due to the fact that people with disability are more likely to be unemployed. In investigating unemployment disparities, human resource and project managers were surveyed to determine their view on hiring persons with disabilities.  The study indicated that they had negative attitudes towards them concerning their productivity, skill and social maturity (Chan, 2008).

Most people view the disabled as incapable, thus they are not given the opportunity to display their skill.  People generally believe that people with disabilities cannot speak for themselves. This also extends to peoples’ interaction with the disabled. Because they fear to offend them they, therefore, prefer avoiding them (Sahu et al., n.d.).  This is a clear indication that much has to be done in order for these people to be able to live with equal opportunities as those without a disability.  

The process begins by educating people so that they understand the disabled. Such education involves interacting with these people as most individuals have not met and interacted with disabled persons.  This will reduce the fear that some people have towards the disabled. 

With the advancement of technology, social justice movements will be able to communicate more effectively throughout the world. This will enable collaborations with different nations to push for awareness of people with disabilities.  This will also act as a platform where movements can voice their cause and create online campaigns. Social media is also an effective platform for these movements to voice their issues.

These movements should challenge institutions on matters of concern such as healthcare and social care budget for the disabled. They should raise questions on health care conditions that will trigger debates and consequently review and improve healthcare conditions. Such debates lead to the review of the rights of the disabled and enactment of policies that will ease disabled peoples’ access to these services.

The burden of fighting for the rights of the disabled should not be left entirely to the social justice movement.  The legislatures need to involve the disabled in policymaking as disability is at the heart of policymaking.  The public policy focuses on providing the disabled people with better housing and social care but does not provide them with an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.  This is specifically due to the notion that people with disabilities cannot perform as well as people without disabilities (Reichard, 2011).  This is a stereotype that must be done away with by allowing people with disabilities to showcase their skills. Employment opportunities should be availed to these people and with a deserved pay (Drainoni et.al, 2006). 

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Living in poverty limits one’s choice as well as their opportunities.  People living with disabilities generally have low income and more expenses due to the costs of living with the disability. Such a financial status means limited opportunities, freedom, as well as inability to live a life of fulfillment.  As a way of stepping in to assist, some governments provide allowances to the disabled.  Most people, however, are unable to receive assistance due to lack of knowledge of the existence of such benefits.  This is mainly because the application for such allowances is done online due to automation of public services.  Most people with disabilities, due to their financial conditions, do to have access to the internet or live in places where they do not have access to the internet.

This, therefore, raises the need to invest in technological advancements in all parts of the country and improvements in information technology to ensure that such information reaches the desired audience and not just those who are financially stable.  As a way of ensuring the information reaches all people with disabilities, the justice movements should register all people with disabilities as well as the government. This will ensure equal consideration when it comes to allocation of resources to these people. 

Empowerment of people with disabilities is also an essential part of the realization of the fight for equal rights for people with disabilities.  Most people in wheelchairs feel sidelined, unwanted, and unproductive.  Right from childhood, for those who acquire the disabilities at birth, they should be educated and learn how to live with themselves as well as others. Education is the best tool for empowerment. When people with wheelchair disabilities are empowered from childhood, they develop a sense of self-worth and go beyond their disabilities.  This will be a great milestone for people with disabilities will no longer wallow in self-pity or hide because they are ashamed.  As a result, they will be able to compete on an equal scale with people without disabilities.

The government should also work on the transport systems and roads so a to accommodate people on wheelchairs. Obstructions should not be on the travel path where possible.  Roads should have ramps for easy movement with wheelchairs. The inclusion of people with disabilities in government projects and legislative processes will also lead to the realization of the countries’ goal of equal distribution of resources.  It is upon the legislators to make the electorates feel represented regardless of their social standing or status.

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Social justice movements should also shift their focus to powering people with disabilities to utilize their potential to the fullest, rather than just fighting for their rights. In as much as these people have to be accorded their rights, without proper empowerment and with education, these rights will not be beneficial to them in the long run.

In conclusion, it is evident that there have been great strides in the fight for the rights of people with physical disabilities requiring a wheelchair.  The progress is quite commendable but more can still be done to guarantee equal opportunities, access to public services, as well as access to proper education for those living with disabilities that require a wheelchair.

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  1. Chan, F. (2008, August). Demand-side employment placement models for persons with disabilities. 
  2. Drainoni, M., Lee-Hood, E., Tobias, C., Bachman, S., Andrew, J., & Maisels, L. (2006). Cross-Disability Experiences of Barriers to Health-Care Access. 
  3. Kamlesh Kumar Sahu, Soma Sahu, (n.d.).Attitudinal Barriers for People with Disabilities. 
  4. Orlin, M. (1995). The Americans with Disabilities Act: Implications for social services. Social Work, 40(2), 233—239. 
  5. Phoenix, M., & Rosenbaum, P. (2017). Presenting the model of risk, disability, and hard-to-reach families to inform early intervention services.  Disability and Rehabilitation, 1-6. 
  6. Reichard, A., Stolzle, H., & Fox, M. H. (2011). Health disparities among adults with physical disabilities or cognitive limitations compared to individuals with no disabilities in the United States. Disability and Health Journal, 4(2), 59-67. 
  7. Steinmetz, E. (2006). Americans with disabilities: 2002. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau. 
  8. Willi Horner-Johnson, Alicia Dixon –Ibarra (2014, January 30).  Preventing Chronic Disease | Disability Status as an Antecedent to Chronic Conditions: National Health Interview Survey, 2006–2012 – CDC. 
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