Giving Thanks and Disability


November 28, 2019 | by Emma Olson

On being blind and giving thanks


Ashley Eisenmenger

Disability Inclusion Training Specialist

It’s the time of year when many find themselves reflecting on what they’re grateful for. As a person with a disability, I’m grateful for so many things…but not in the way you might think.

I’m blind, and I use technology every day to go about the business of my life. I’m certainly grateful for the advancements that have been made; I use apps on my phone to do everything from make sure my clothes match to identifying items in my kitchen. I’m able to sit here and type this blog entry with confidence because my screen reader is announcing every letter as I type it. Because of these technologies, I have access to a world that is made to be seen.

Without access to public transportation I wouldn’t be able to commute independently. But because of buses and trains and audio prompts, I can travel to and from work and be confident I’m getting on and off at the right stop. 

Accessible technology and public transportation didn’t happen on their own: The law requires I have access to public places, just like everyone else. And that’s truly what I’m most grateful for – the fact that people with disabilities can and should expect access as a standard practice in the United States. 

Without the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), my world would be much smaller, my life less full, and my outlook less clear. 

I’m also thankful for the disability rights leaders and advocates that came before us, the people that fought to put the disability rights movement in motion and set the framework for us to build upon. I’m grateful for all those who spoke up in the face of injustice, ensuring that our voices are still heard today. And I’m grateful for the diversity of thought and action that permeates the work we do as the fight for disability rights continues to move forward.

There is still a lot of work to be done surrounding disability, access, equity, and inclusion, and we must remember that our rights are not things to be thankful for; they are what we deserve and they are what we are entitled to. However, when it comes to the leaders who led the way, the work that has moved us forward, and our community’s refusal to back down, we can – and should – be thankful.