Below are my planned remarks for the speech I gave at Houston City Hall on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Unfortunately, due to the number of speakers, I was only allowed one minute instead of the three that I had planned, so I said something a bit different than planned. My remarks are inspired by a transportation ordinance to be issued regulating Uber and Lyft that affects people with disabilities (as ride-sharing companies tend not to provide accessible service to people in wheelchairs).
The whole hearing is online: I am in part three of four beginning around 23:45.
Before I begin, let me just take a few moments to introduce myself. My name is Michael Zoorob, and I am a student at Vanderbilt University. The views I am expressing today are my own.
This summer I had the opportunity to work at the Southwest ADA Center, a disability non-profit organization. Through my work at the Center, and also through the conversations I have had with many who work there, I think I’ve learned a lot about disability. Today I’d just like to share some of what I’ve learned.
The first thing I learned is that disability is real and prevalent
I’m 20 years old, I like to lift weights a few times a week, and disability is not something I think about as affecting me. But consider this: In Oct 2012, the NYT wrote that a 20 year old has a 30% chance of becoming disabled for more than six months before he retires. Cancer is the second biggest cause of disability – and consider how often – and how randomly – it strikes.
In fact, more than 50 million people have a disability – a number that will increase as the population ages. This isn’t something which just affects somebody else. It affects our parents and grandparents. It affects all of us. And it matters.
Disability is, like race or sex or sexual orientation, a characteristic which you cannot wake up one morning and decide to change. It is also, unfortunately, a characteristic which is often used to deny a person work or service or respect. But discrimination is just as wrong when it is done because a person is blind and uses a guide dog or paraplegic and uses wheelchair as when it is done because of a person’s skin color.
This is a civil rights issue. But it is also an invisible civil rights issue. People with disabilities are much more likely to have difficulty leaving the home – to have difficulty accessing transportation. It can be hard to realize that discrimination is happening when it traps a person within his home. But when buildings or sidewalks or cars are designed in a way which excludes some people from using them, that’s discrimination too.
The city council is to vote tomorrow on a new transportation ordinance. I hope they send the message that while equality isn’t free, civil rights are priceless.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today.