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  • 815 South Utica Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74104
  • 918.584.8607
  • 815 South Utica Avenue, Tulsa, OK
  • 918.584.8607

Tulsa World Opinion

Nearly one in every five Americans have a disability, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. This means that people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the nation. Disability doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time in life.

A happiness study by Sonja Lyubomirsky for the book “The How of Happiness” determined that 50 percent of an individual’s happiness is genetic, 10 percent is circumstance and 40 percent intentional acts. The challenge for those with disabilities is, they don’t have access to many activities or resources that make up their circumstance and allow them to partake in intentional acts. How can we expect a population, living in a society not designed for them, to thrive?

On average, individuals with disabilities receive $689 per month in benefits from the federal government, and just an additional $42 from the state of Oklahoma. That is a combined income of $740 per month. The average apartment rent in Tulsa is $648 per month. That leaves an individual with a disability less than $100 per month for medical needs, food and transportation.

If individuals with disabilities want to work, they need a full-time job with benefits and an accessible work environment. Unfortunately, that usually requires a degree and reliable transportation, which many do not have access to. Part-time jobs are out of reach because if individuals on disability benefits make too much additional income, they will lose those benefits.

There are also accessibility barriers. While the Americans with Disabilities Act was a step in the right direction, there are still improvements that need to be made. It was shown in the ADA Self-evaluation and Transition Plan by the city of Tulsa in 2013 that many parking lots in Tulsa do not provide accessible parking, or if they do, the spaces are often noncompliant. In addition, the paths from the parking lots to the building entrances were often either nonexistent, or noncompliant. There is a common misconception that making a business accessible is expensive. Many changes are not only affordable, but can also be used as a tax write-off for companies.

Another barrier is transportation. While several cities like Tulsa have accessible public transportation, it is usually expensive and restrictive. In Tulsa, a ride more than 6 miles costs $3.50 per trip. (Not round trip.) Each ride needs to be scheduled well in advance and rides are first-come, first-served. These rides also are scheduled in windows, so people end up waiting for hours at either point of their trip.

I hope this has given you a better understanding of the obstacles that people with disabilities in our community face. October is National Diversity Awareness month. I implore you to not only advocate for minority groups defined by race, religion, wealth, sexual orientation or gender identification, but also for those that are living with a disability. Take notice of those with disabilities you see in the community who are overcoming these barriers. Realize you or someone you love could be in a similar situation — struggling to live a fulfilling, happy life — in the near future.

To find out how you can help increase awareness of the challenges of life with a disability, please visit our Facebook page: Facebook.com/TheCenterTulsa for advocacy, volunteer and event opportunities. Let’s make Tulsa one of the most inclusive cities in the country!

Lori Long, MHRE, CFRE is executive director of The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges.

See article here

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