Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tea Party Member Rand Paul Wants to Abolish The Americans With Disabilities Act

I long ago stopped looking for any Tea Party member to actually make sense, but the degree to which they are stunningly ignorant still continues to shock me.  They claim to be about common sense and therefore, Rand Paul believes that  allowing businesses to discriminate because it saves money is appropriate. Why value human life, when we can focus on the all mighty dollar? 

transcript:

Interviewer:  Do you support The Americans with Disabilities Act or do you think that is the federal government getting too involved?

Rand Paul: You know a lot of things on employment ought to be done locally. You know, people finding out right or wrong locally. You know, some of the things, for example we can come up with common sense solutions — like for example if you have a three story building and you have someone apply for a job, you get them a job on the first floor if they’re in a wheelchair as supposed to making the person who owns the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that aren’t fair to the business owner. [...]

What about the person patronizing the business, do they not have the right to have access to the entire building? If these businesses had taken the differently abled into consideration in the first place, they would not have to spend money to renovate and make their premises ADA compliant.

Accessibility is about more than money;  it means allowing people whose bodies are constructed differently the ability to lead full and active lives.  I live in a city that is not very accessible and it means that there are plenty of activities that my family cannot participate in unless I push my body to the point of pain.  The fact that I have this option, is a sign of my privilege, as for many, standing period is simply not physically possible.

The tea party claims to represent a disenfranchised class and yet it seems to me that what they really support is the maintenance of norms that “other” large sections of society.  It is fine for Paul to put the interests of business owners first because it will not directly affect him.  At this point he cannot foresee a day when the very laws he claims are unfair will allow him to participate in life.  Able bodied status is temporary for us all and as he ages, Paul may well find himself sorry that access is not as readily available as it should be.  Rand’s position  is a very typical response, because the degree to which society is structured to exclude certain bodies is easy to ignore if there is no personal impact.

When my body functioned like the so-called normal bodies, I did not see what was right before my eyes.  I gave little thought to the narrow aisles, lack of ramps, or disabled bathrooms.  I roamed the world with able bodied privilege, never once thinking that my ability might someday change, or that the freedom that I then enjoyed was not equal across the board.  I believed that people were always kind to the different abled and I patted myself on the back for always being willing to pitch in if asked.  This is the kind of able bodied mirage that many live in because they have not experienced what it is like to be systematically excluded or reduced to invisible to support a society that believes that only bodies that conform to a certain standard are worth recognizing.

When the differently abled protest being excluded, we are told that we are being too sensitive or we are expected to rise above, no matter the pain that this inflicts.  We are told about good intentions and never asked whether or not our needs and expectations are being met.  Doing good works does not make you an ally, but listening and taking the time to validate our experiences and our lives does.  Constructing the differently abled as a simple inconvenience, without acknowledging the fact that society has been specifically constructed to ignore our needs is oppressive. The tea party is not interested in radical change, only in the maintenance of ideals that have proven to be historically harmful.  One day when Paul inevitably needs some form of accommodation, I hope that he remembers his words, because someone might just decide allowing him to participate is not as important as saving a few dollars.

H/T RiPPa via twitter