By Michael Rock:

Too often, disability services are under-prioritized by the public agencies that fund them.

In Illinois, people with disabilities wait an average of seven years before they and their families know whether they qualify for supports such as housing and job coaching, even as court rulings demand the wait time be reduced.

That people with disabilities are often neglected by public sector funders of social services is a symptom of the systemic devaluation of their lives by society, as evidenced by the story of the Toledo, Ohio man who attempted to raise money for the health care of his infant son, who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and Trisomy 9 Mosaic Syndrome via flyers at the mall, only for one person calling for him to “let the baby die,” saying that to do so would be “Darwinism.”

Fortunately, there is reason to hope. Though the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1975, has made great strides in allowing equal access to education for children with disabilities, advocates have suggested a number of ways to further advance the law’s goals. These include combattng implicit racial bias in special education, expanding judicial definitions of the law and greater specificity in its terms when reauthorizing it.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, a group of nine disability services providers has formed the Disability Action Coalition to better provide for Ireland’s disability community, as well as to advocate for them to get the proper funding they need.

In New York, seven social services providers and about three hundred volunteer organizations statewide have formed New York Disability Advocates to address the funding shortages they have faced. More specifically, they have requested a three percent funding increase annually for the next five years to reverse the inadequate funding the state has provided them in recent years.

When people with disabilities are not treated as a burden on society, it is easier to make the case for funding the social services they need. When these services are properly-funded, life for people with disabilities and their families becomes much easier.

Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.