Hello everyone and welcome back to the legally abled podcast. My name is Ashley Jacobson I am a disability rights attorney, a disability counselor and assessment specialist, and a physically disabled woman living in the state of Michigan. And I’m so thrilled to be bringing this podcast back. I created a little legal evil podcast when I was in law school. After I saw a lot of injustice is happening against the disability community and I wanted a way to raise awareness of that and also share the many many resources that I’ve acquired. In the past, gosh, I would say, 13 to 15 years working in the disability arena and living with disability. So some things have changed since I started the podcast, I am no longer a law student, I am a lawyer, which is very exciting I’m loving what I’m doing.
I’m also a disabled entrepreneur, I have my own law firm called Jacobson law and advocacy. And I have my own consulting firm, which allows me to do, counseling, on adopting to disability accommodations assessments for the workplace. And for schools including universities and grad school, and really sink my teeth into all of the ways in which
I can provide trainings resources and counseling to people with disabilities of all ages, and that’s through my consulting firm called adaptive inclusion. So, my life is very disability centric personally living with lupus and other chronic illnesses, as well as working as a disability rights attorney.
So there have been a lot of changes, I would say over the last year and I’m really excited to be bringing this podcast back on a weekly basis. I’m going to definitely do at least once a week. And each podcast will broken up into 15 to 30 minutes segments, because I received some feedback from people saying that, especially for certain types of disabilities. The loss of focus might be something that’s difficult in longer podcasts so they, you know, my, so not a little bit or get distracted or have difficulties with memory and sensory and things that caused them to go back and try to find where they left off. And so I will be chopping these episodes up into 15 to 30 minute blocks of time.
And I’m really receptive to any feedback, especially if it will accommodate your disability if it will make this podcast more accessible for you, for your loved ones. Please do not be afraid, let me know.
So I wanted to do a little bit of a roundup now that you’ve got your updates on me on current events, and issues facing the disability community because I’m going to be diving into all of these topics, weekly, and interviewing some truly amazing guest so I’m really honored to have the opportunity to interview.
I’m really honored to have the opportunity to interview. And I already have some awesome people lined up Disability Advocates disabled writers actors policy writers.
Politicians attorneys educators and other counselors.
And I want to focus on the key issues in the Disability Justice Movement, while also having a little bit of fun and share her favorite taste of disability in the media, because there is some incredible media content out there for people with disabilities,
Whether it’s on social media, or TV or movie is, we are coming for it all.
And so, you know, in the last year with the covenant team pandemic.
It has never been more glaring that people with disabilities are treated as less than or not worthy, or not as important, then they’re not disabled peers.
Not only did we have to hear, politicians, people on the news, friends, community members say that it didn’t matter if we had more severe symptoms of covert if we were to catch it.
Because our lives weren’t as valuable.
And they would say this messaging through things like.
It’s only the vulnerable people who are affected by coping, which we know to be not true.
But then they would clarify that the vulnerable are old people, and disabled people. People with underlying conditions.
And so for over a year.
I’ve heard leaders. People have no saying that essentially it didn’t matter. They weren’t going to wear masks, they weren’t going to social distance. Because if they caught coven, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
When I was holed up in my home for over a year, I didn’t go anywhere but the pharmacy, and usually it was my husband going to the pharmacy and going to the grocery store, or to the doctor.
I did have surgery during the pandemic, which was a very interesting experience, to say the least.
But that surgery was delayed for about six or seven months while you know most surgeries were on hiatus, providing emergency medical care to people with COPD, which is understandable.
But it was not understandable, was the lack of empathy that I experienced daily from strangers on the internet to famous people who just didn’t get that there are millions and millions of people in every state of the United States, who have disabilities who contribute to their communities, support families have friends and loved ones that care for them and that they care for deeply. And many of them work. Some of them don’t and they volunteer. Many are prominent advocates online and in person.
And yet, we were truly treated like we were disposable.
So I wrote an article about that it is up on LegallyAbled.com I wrote it initially, I want to say it was in April of 2020, it is now may of 2021.
And while some things have changed. some things remain the same.
I am fully vaccinated, which is great news.
I did get covert after being fully vaccinated. So I urge everyone to be careful, even if they’re vaccinated.
And because while I was careful. You know, it’s still happened. And while I’m very, very grateful.
Because I feel as though having the vaccine allowed me to experience co bed in a still pretty severe way, I would say, but much less severe and scary that I’m sure it would have been had I not been vaccinated.
So about a month ago, my husband co bed.
And one of going to the hospital, really messed with his blood pressure. He’s doing much better now.
But then shortly thereafter I woke up in the middle of the night, and I felt like I was choking. And that was really scary because I don’t normally experienced that, but I do have autoimmune disease and so I wasn’t sure if it was related to that or not. And I went to my primary care doctor first thing that day, and I said you know I don’t know maybe I should get back on doing my breathing treatments. And he said I’m going to test you for COPD. And I truly thought there was no way I had it I mean I’m such a hermit. And I don’t go anywhere. And I knew my husband had it but I was also fully vaccinated and I heard that it was pretty rare. I think they say point 1% of people who are fully vaccinated still get it but again they probably have less severe symptoms than they would have had they not been vaccinated. They still, but I mean what are the odds I’m in that point 01 percent of people. Turns out for me and my body that’s pretty good for that so I’m grateful to have mostly healed from that.
You probably can’t tell from me rambling on this podcast, but I am still having some shortness of breath.
If you’re watching this video. You can see that I’m going to let this flare up right now I’ve got a rash on my face and my body I think is just kind of bouncing back in its own unique way from having coven and having an autoimmune disease during that. But speaking of the vaccine.
One of the other updates that highlighted the way in which disabled people your view during this pandemic. Was that many of them were not given access to the vaccine appropriately, in my state, the state of Michigan.
Essential workers like and mostly were given access to the vaccine first that makes sense, right it’s a public health crisis they’re providing a central services.
We need to protect them, they’re valued members of our society.
But then, at least in my state.
And in a lot of other states and I’m seeing this to where they open up vaccines to people 65 years or older.
And while a big portion of the disability community is in that each group.
There are millions of people with disabilities who had been told for over a year.
In some cases, that they were vulnerable to the most severe symptoms of co op ed.
And yet, because they weren’t over the age of 65. They weren’t given access to the vaccine.
In fact, caregivers of people with disabilities were given access to the vaccine sooner than the disabled individual themselves. That’s a huge problem. We’re literally assessing whose lives lives are worth saving. And we’re doing it in a very public way, a very direct way. And we’re sending the message to a huge chunk of the disability community that they’re always the last right i mean they’re always the last to come to mind. They’re the last to get opportunities to get protected and the statistics are even more staggering for black disabled individuals.
We found that in many states, and I’m a white disabled woman, but just from my professional background I’ve been keeping track of the statistics, and the reports that are coming out from different counties in different states, and even different countries and black disabled individuals were disproportionately affected by lack of access to the vaccine, lack of access to adequate covert testing and treatment. And so not only was the disability community dealing with this negative messaging throughout the whole pandemic and they’re still dealing with that.
But they’re also dealing with life threatening issues here. And yet, throughout this pandemic.
I really heard anybody reporting on it outside of myself and many Disability Advocates online but in the mainstream media. It wasn’t really that reported on. And so that was also disappointing.
Other updates pertaining to disability current events and issues that are important to our community.
In the last year there’s been a lot of awareness and really an uprising to no longer be complacent or accept the police brutality that’s inflicted against black people.
Black disabled individuals are among the most affected by police violence and brutality.
As a disability rights lawyer, this is not new information to me, it’s not something that I just became aware of it’s not something that I just started advocating against.
But the past year I’ve seen a lot of people who normally didn’t pay that much attention to police brutality start to want to learn about it and speak about it and while some of it was performative Alice ship meaning they talked about it for a few days and then moved on. And I’m hoping, truly really desperately hoping that this isn’t something that we push past or push aside, black children with disabilities have a higher rate of being more severely punished.
When it comes to having a disability and being in school.
They tend to be seen as more as troublemakers and their weight nondisabled peers, even more so than their weight disabled peers.
Even when that’s not the case that bias is there in a lot of our education system.
And then once you get into juvenile law, which is part of what I do is I represent kids who are dealing with the court system, you find that, depending on the detention center. One study found that up to 70% seven zero percent of kids in juvenile detention have disability. When it comes to the adult prison population. Again, this is just what’s documented, and what’s verified. I’m sure this number is actually much higher, but it’s around 40% of the adult inmate population has a disability.
And then you consider how disability rights are required to be provided for when you’re questioned by police. When you’re going through a juvenile adjudication, which is essentially what they call a juvenile criminal case, the system works a little bit differently for kids and adults. But when you’re going through the either as an adult or as a child, and you’re dealing with police and social workers, and attorneys and judges or referees.
You have disability rights in those settings. But if you pull aside each of these participants in our legal system.
What you’ll find is, even the most well intentioned individuals don’t have the background and disability that they need to be able to assess how disability, played a role, either in the incident alleged or in the courtroom.
And that’s why I became a lawyer. I was working as a counselor what using my master’s degree and my nationwide certification in disability counseling and assessment. It’s called a rehabilitation counselor, which is not the same thing as a substance use disorder counselor that’s a totally different fields, but sometimes people think that because they hear rehabilitation and the name, but rehabilitation counselors are providing counseling, that empower people with disabilities in the workplace in schools and in their home situations or they’re independent living or wherever they find themselves in the community really. And I was doing that, loving that, and then I had over one week I had three separate clients deal with a legal matter. I’m deal with the police. And I noticed how horribly those situations were handled and I went to find an attorney who adequately understood disability and how it would affect the clients ability to navigate the legal system with the barriers the legal system has, in their way, that are discriminatory. And I couldn’t find that. And so I thought I’ll just sign up for the offset and see, and then went to law school did it in two years went out for the bar exam past it. And I’ll get into the bar exam at another time because there’s a lot of discrimination against people with disabilities in the Michigan bar exam, a lot of accommodations being approved but then not provided on the day when you show up. I also have an article written about that and my experience on LegallyAbled.com. And as a lawyer, you know, I’ve seen many clients, interacting with the police.
As kids and as adults. And I followed these national stories that the disability community really rallied behind and advocates and raises awareness and provide the resources to speak up against it and to reach out to politicians who can make a difference and reverse things and all of that, but there’s such a long way to go.
And so in 2020, the disability community also had an awakening in the sense that the people, the disability advocates who tend to do the best on social media, they get the most endorsements that have the most followers are typically white, disabled people who have physical disabilities. Many of them are in wheelchairs or they have limb difference, and their disabilities are kind of packaged in a way that works for them, and is great and we should do that they should get those endorsements and they work hard for their pages. But we’re still needing to correct the bias in the disabled media that we consume. And so I just encourage everybody if you’re on social media, whether it be Tick tock, Instagram, Facebook, or any other app that pops up there. I encourage you to follow people with disabilities who look different than you are different, they’re different race, they have a different disability.
They are from different countries they have, they speak, maybe different languages and immerse yourself in content that is not your day to day experience, because I can tell you that it’s allowed me to be a more well rounded individual, and we’re active participants in the disability community and advocacy movement, as well as just a more intelligent person. Because you know I’m a lawyer, I’m a counselor I am a speaker, and the smartest people I’ve learned. Know that the learning never ends. And so they’re always going to be things that I know and they’re always going to be things that I still need to learn.
And so I just encourage you to go out there and follow some people who expand your understanding.
Especially pertaining to disability and our sexuality, to people who are from the LGBT q plus community who have disabilities.
People who are black and have disabilities people who are immigrants that have disabilities Native Americans with disabilities, really expand your day to day content that you’ll consume.
And you’ll find that it doesn’t necessarily have to include a lot of time to follow people. And you’re going to be on social media, anyway, so you might as well just follow some new people learn some new things. In just that and use that moving forward,
Other really important things that to the disability community right now include the climate crisis. People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by natural disasters, changes in the weather and changes in climate.
If you haven’t gotten a chance I highly recommend that you watch the gratitude Berg documentary on Hulu.
It’s a great example of somebody who’s very well known for advocating on environmental issues, but also discusses her disability, quite a bit. And some of you might not know that she has autism. She is very open about being autistic. And she’s also very open about having anxiety and depression, and having some really low periods in her life in which her environmental advocacy and understanding of her disability, helped her and kind of push on.
And so I highly recommend that you check that out but the ways in which people disabilities are affected by climate change are evident, if you look at any huge natural disaster or environmental disaster that’s happened in the last couple of years.
We saw the wildfires in California. We had millions of people with disabilities struggling to find accessible shelters meaning there’s a bed that they can get in and out of their doors that they can go through to get into the facility.
There aren’t restrooms, that they can use that are accessible for wheelchairs walkers canes medical devices and like.
Then, when you look at hurricanes and tornadoes. People with disabilities on occasion are abandoned by caretakers especially if they’re not loved ones like if they’re in a nursing home, and they’re just kind of left to fend for themselves.
Additionally, with weather changes with flooding. It restricts access to sidewalks and roads with ice and snow. People aren’t shoveling sidewalks, like they’re supposed to be in their counties. And so, People with disabilities have been stranded in those instances.
And so we’re looking at these huge Disability Justice issues, and you might be thinking, Well, what can I do to change these issues have been around for a long time? I firmly believe that one of the ways in which you can make concrete change in your community today is to investigate employment discrimination in your area, maybe at your company that you work or own, or your small business association and train on disability and inclusion and the myths that are out there. When it comes to accommodations and cost of accessibility.
Most the vast, vast majority I would say 95% of all accommodations that make workplaces accessible for people with disabilities are low cost or no cost to the employer and employers have more employees with disabilities, I’m a real.
That being said, hiring discrimination is still one of the most pressing issues.
When it comes to Disability Justice in 2020 80%, eight zero percent of people with disabilities were unemployed, compare that to 40% of non disabled people being unemployed. It’s a massive difference. And sure it was a pandemic in 2020. But this isn’t a new problem. The unemployment rate is something that frankly isn’t being addressed quickly enough, and a huge reason for that is that the non disabled community people without disabilities misunderstand what disability is what it looks like, what it looks like and how you can employ and benefit from a person with a disability working in your workplace. So we’ve talked about a lot in this podcast episode. And a lot of it has been kind of heavy stuff.
So now I want to talk about the light happy things that are happening.
This year we saw a huge effort by disabled writers and Hollywood disabled actors producers. And we’re seeing.
Amazing. Funny accurate disability in our media. Granted, is still in less than 1% of all media.
So, We need to be out there and more. We need to be given the opportunity to be out there and more, I should say.
But one of the shows that I’m absolutely loving right now is Special on Netflix. Now, it’s not appropriate for children, there are adult themes and language. But my gosh, it’s just so refreshing to see an adult comedy show that talks about disability accurately talks about adult issues living with disability as a disabled creator, writer, actor, actually, more than one, and has all of the funny uplifting moments just as much if not more than be depressing discriminatory moments. I will be reviewing Season 1 as we wait for Season 2 which comes out on Netflix on May 20th!
Thank you for tuning in to the Legally Abled Podcast! My name is Ashley Jacobson, and I will see you in the next episode!