Omaha and Ableism

December 21, 2018

The World Herald Reported in August that two Nebraskans, have filed over 87 lawsuits to Omaha businesses, due to their lack of accessibility. Which, ultimately is discrimination towards disabled people, known as ableism. 

Ableism, a term that is unheard of to most is the practice of attitudes in a society that devalues and oppresses people with disabilities. Ableism is extremely dominant in cities all across the nation. We tend to value people who are able-bodied, or without any physical or mental limitations than those who do. 

The conditions that suppress those who have with physical disabilities are often ones that would be overlooked by able-bodied people, these limitations can be as big as a building only having staircase entrances or elevators (or pass off barely functioning elevators as their form of “accessibility”) but tightly narrow hallways or walkways blocked off merchandise or disabled parking on an incline, increasing the difficulty of a physically disabled person being able to transfer from their car to wheelchairs. 

It is so easy to consider these situations and to not think twice or even consider them a problem at all. This is because of how finely ingrained ableism has been adapted into America. Although 40 million Americans have physical disabilities, making up 13.3% of our population their oppression is so widely ignored.  

The two Nebraskans are able to sue these businesses because of their violation of the ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, established in 1990, the civil rights law prohibits the discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public properties.  

Yet, so many Omaha businesses, specifically businesses downtown are not compliant with the law. Several Businesses have turned away wheelchair users due to the fact that their entrances only include staircases and letting wheelchair uses in would be a “liability” .  

Joe Lynett a lawyer for the Jackson Lewis Law Firm, who is defending most of the Omaha businesses under-fire came out with the following statement about the lawsuits “Many businesses view these lawsuits as an annoyance, that the plaintiffs have not really been denied goods and service”. Lynett’s disregard for the struggles of disabled Nebraskans is present in his word choice.  

The usage of the word “annoyance” implies that the discrimination these businesses are committing are against disabled citizens isn’t important. It undoes the significance of a business not allowing customers into their establishments.  

Accessibility isn’t about “catering” to disabled people and offering some sort of special treatment but rather an acknowledgement of disabled people’s basic human rights. Refusing entrance to disabled customers for no other basis than the fact that they are disabled is in fact discrimination and should be looked at as more than an “annoyance” to a business.  

The denial of this discrimination makes it easy for people living with disabilities to feel as if they are second-class citizens. It is absolutely ridiculous that so many ridiculous that so many businesses are able to get away with discrimination that is quite frankly illegal just because accessibility is merely just “convenience” in a society that seems to only value its baked-bodied population.

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