July 26, 2020, commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, arguably the most broad-reaching civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For decades before the ADA, people with disabilities — all 61 million of us, who exist in one-third of households — were institutionalized, kept hidden out of shame, and isolated from society because of a lack of access. The legislation protected us from discrimination and increased our participation in public life.
But while disability issues have become more mainstream in our culture, we still have a long way to go to reach true equality and justice — especially in light of the disproportionate impact both coronavirus and the recession have had on our communities. Simply put, there are structures put in place with the intention of keeping people with disabilities poor, even at the most prosperous times in our country’s history.What does it mean when one cannot access capital in normative, abled ways, most typically associated with work? Instead of valuing all human beings regardless of their ability to work, American society portrays people with disabilities as either “fakers, takers, or moneymakers.”Our economic system punishes people with disabilities in a variety of insidious ways. One of these are asset limits, which are policies that require beneficiaries of public assistance programs to possess very few resources to qualify. These “means-tested” programs severely restrict people with disabilities from saving money or accumulating wealth, according to years of research. Asset limits, often outdated, oust many people to the margins, forcing people with disabilities and their families to choose between necessities like food and healthcare.