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    20 Steps: A Few Facts About Disability, Access, And Discrimination- And How People Are Still Somehow Getting It Wrong

    What happens when a "community theater" refuses to meet ADA guidelines, even though they're located directly above a nonprofit organization that runs a creative arts studio for individuals with disabilities?

    Recently, a business in Grand Rapids, Michigan made renovations to the building in which they're located in order to create a "community theater", but unfortunately they refused to add either a ramp or elevator to meet ADA guidelines. The narrow staircase leading up to the theater consists of 20 steep stairs... and exactly 20 steps from the bottom of the staircase? The door of another of the building's tenants: a nonprofit creative arts studio that offers classes and exhibition opportunities for individuals with disabilities. In response, members of the surrounding community- each of whom are living with their own disabilities- agreed to be photographed at the bottom of the staircase holding quotes by people, organizations, or companies that have tried to justify denying them access in some way. Accompanying these quotes are 20 facts everyone should know about disability and discrimination.

    Approximatly 57 million people in the US identify as having some kind of disability: of that 57 million, 21.2 million people report having a condition that limits their ability to engage in physical activities such as walking, running, lifting, carrying, or climbing stairs. (

    12.4 million people report a condition that effects their ability to learn, remember, or concentrate


    and 133 million people report currently living with chronic health conditions.


    People with disabilities make up what is considered the nations largest minority group. (US Census Bureau)

    Disability rates vary by ethnic groups- with African Americans and Native communities experiencing the highest rates of approximately 24%- so issues of ablism and racism frequently become intertwined.


    The US Department of Education reports the workplace satisfaction evaluations for employees with disabilities as consistently average or above average in the areas of performance, quality and quantity of work, flexibility and attendance.


    More than 20 million US families have at least one member that has a disability. (

    75% of individuals with chronic health conditions are younger than 65 years. (

    6.5 million people in the US are classified as cognitively disabled. (

    Approximately 10 % of school aged children have a disorder or condition that makes communication difficult, such as apraxia of speech or other speech disorders. (

    Disability, even among individuals with the same diagnosis, varies enormously in its presentation.

    Even in "at will" employment states, the Family Medical Leave Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act protect employees from wrongful termination. (US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights)

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures services to children with disabilities and there are many agencies, programs, and organizations available to help families resolve IDEA disputes and ensure services for their children.

    Phil's beard is awesome. It is not now and has never been an issue of presentability.

    ADA Title III asserts that public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given that public accommodations resources and additions and renovations must comply to the "maximum extent feasible"- defined as 20% or less of the overall cost of the project. (

    Of the over $3 billion spent each year in charitable and philanthropic giving each year in the US, only 2.9% of grants awarded focus on serving the disabled population. (

    According to the ADA Glossary of Terms, the term "Accessible" refers to a site, facility, work environment, service, or program that is easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability. (

    Many disabilities are not considered "medical issues" and therefor remain ineligible under many insurance policies, leaving families and individuals to pay for services on their own.

    Federal laws, supplemented by court decisions, prohibit discrimination in such areas as employment, housing, voting rights, education, and access to public facilities. They also proscribe discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex, nationality, disability, or religion. In addition, state and local laws can prohibit discrimination in these areas and in others not covered by federal laws. (

    Section 504 of the Rehab Act of 1973 protects individuals from discrimination based on their disability. (