BraunAbility Survey: People Who Use Wheelchairs Are Still Excluded

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turned 30 years old on July 26, but a new BraunAbility survey showed that people who use wheelchairs still feel largely excluded from everyday activities in their communities.

In a July 23 news announcement, BraunAbility said its Inclusion Report Card showed only 15 percent of the mobility disability community surveyed was “satisfied with the current effectiveness of ADA laws. And nearly half still feel excluded from full societal participation, most of the time because of their mobility impairment.”

BraunAbility, maker of wheelchair-accessible automotive vehicles, surveyed members of the general population as well as members of The Driving Force, the manufacturer’s online community of people with mobility-related disabilities and their caregivers.

The Inclusion Report Card said 68 percent of the general public “believe people with mobility challenges are fairly accommodated and included in most aspects of society.” In comparison, just 23 percent of members of The Driving Force agreed with that.

Forty percent of The Driving Force participants believe mobility impairments “are rarely considered when organizations and governments develop programs or accessibility accommodations under the category of ‘diversity and inclusion.’”

The Driving Force members also said the primary barrier to achieving inclusion is “the lack of involvement of people with mobility issues while accommodations are designed and developed.”

The general public did agree that people who use wheelchairs have relatively little input on decisions that affect them. Those survey respondents said people who use wheelchairs are the second-most marginalized group, ahead only of immigrant populations. People who use wheelchairs were seen to be more marginalized than women, seniors, and ethnic or religious groups.

And it appears that social distancing and quarantining due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might be providing insight to the general public. Almost 70 percent of survey respondents in the general population said they had a “greater willingness to understand and accommodate others who experience isolation or challenges because of a mobility impairment” after experiencing isolation themselves earlier this year.

Survey respondents from The Driving Force said the key to improved inclusion is involving people with disabilities when seeking to create more accessible products, technologies or communities.

Sam Schmidt, a member of BraunAbility’s Drive for Inclusion Advisory Board, said, “The ADA has made tremendous strides toward advancing life-changing access and inclusion for those of us with mobility impairments, and all people with a disability. But we also recognize that to continue advancing access and inclusion for the next 30 years, it’s imperative that the very people who need and use the accommodations are consulted early in the process.”

Schmidt, a former IndyCar driver, sustained a spinal cord injury in a 2000 training accident and became a full-time power wheelchair user. He continued to be active in professional racing as a team owner and has driven an adapted racecar. His Conquer Paralysis Now foundation funds research, medical treatments and rehabilitation with the goal of developing a cure for paralysis.

 

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.