As 2019 draws to a close and we set our sights on a new decade, it’s time to look back at the year that was and highlight some of the biggest stories surrounding the disability community. 2019 was a groundbreaking year for inclusion. Here are a just a few of the highlights.
stereotypes: Musical savant Kodi Lee wins America’s
In May, Kodi Lee, a gifted musician who is blind and has
autism, took center stage to audition on the season 14 premiere of
America’s Got Talent.
What happened next inspired and delighted audiences across the globe. Kodi not only performed, he blew everyone who heard him away with his extraordinary musicianship on the piano and incredible voice. His performance was so impressive, judge Gabrielle Union awarded Kodi the “Golden Buzzer,” an achievement that catapulted him all the way through the audition phase of the show to the upcoming live semi-finals.
Kodi reminded all of us that people with disabilities have
unique talents and abilities and that we should not judge what an individual is
capable of by looking at them only through the lens of their disability.
Making it easier to
get around: New York pledges $5 billion for subway accessibility
Accessibility for people with disabilities has always been
an issue in New York City, and earlier this year, the Metropolitan Transit
to address the problem to the tune of $5 billion in accessibility updates over
the next five years.
According to the
York Times, only one quarter of the city’s 472 subway stations are
currently wheelchair accessible. The new plan from the M.T.A. would add
elevators to 70 more stations around the city, focusing on areas like Queens
that have been particularly neglected.
While subway travel isn’t the main mode of transportation
for many of us across the U.S., this is a major step forward for the hundreds
of thousands of people with disabilities in New York who have struggled with
transportation accessibility for years. Hopefully in the years to come, 100% of
New York’s subway stations will be wheelchair accessible.
Let’s ALL play ball:
Major League Baseball retires the “disabled list”
For decades, injured players on Major League Baseball teams
have been designated to their team’s “disabled list.” That changed in 2019 when
the league announced that it would change the name of the injured players list
to the “inactive list” out of respect for the disability community.
“In recent years, the commissioner has received several
inquiries regarding the name of the ‘Disabled List,'” a statement from MLB
reads. “The principal concern is that using the term ‘disabled’ for
players who are injured supports the misconception that people with
disabilities are injured and therefore are not able to participate or compete
in sports. As a result, Major League Baseball has agreed to change the name
‘Disabled List’ to be the ‘Injured List’ at both the major and minor league
While this may seem like a small gesture, it is wonderful to
see an iconic organization like Major League Baseball take disability inclusion
seriously. The renaming of MLB’s “disabled list” is yet another step forward in
the conversation around inclusion for people with disabilities.
All of this progress makes us optimistic that the global
conversation around disability inclusion will continue to grow and more moves
will be made in the new decade. Here’s to a New Year full of broken barriers
and shattered stereotypes for people with disabilities!