Jul 29, 2022 - News

What Arizona does right and wrong for people with disabilities

Illustration of a pattern of Disability Pride Month flags.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

July is Disability Pride Month. It was created to commemorate the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.

The big picture: Arizona and the Valley do a lot of things right when it comes to accommodating people with disabilities, but they still have a lot of room for improvement, advocates say.

Why it matters: About 1.38 million Arizonans 18 and over, or 24% of the state's adult population, have some kind of disability, according to the CDC.

  • That can include problems with mobility, cognition, hearing, vision and self-care.

State of play: Meaghan Kramer, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL), tells Axios Phoenix that the state used to be "sort of ahead of the game" when it came to being disability-friendly, but it has become much less so in recent years.

  • Kramer says Arizona has a shortage of critical services and staffing in areas like attendant care, in-home care, nursing homes, skilled nursing and behavioral health.
  • The big problem is a lack of state funding, she says, particularly in the Arizona Long Term Care System, which provides nursing-level care for people with disabilities and those over 65.
  • She says disability services are also very expensive and the providers are underpaid, which leads to shortages and denials of services.

What we do right: Jennifer Longdon, a state representative from Phoenix who uses a wheelchair, says the Valley is fairly amenable to people with mobility issues, which she largely attributes to the fact that so much of the metro area's growth occurred after the passage of the ADA.

  • Longdon specifically pointed to newer public transportation options such as the Valley Metro Rail system and the PHX Sky Train that carries people between the 44th Street light rail station and Sky Harbor International Airport.
  • The bus system is less accessible, Longdon says, but she sees an openness to making improvements.
  • Kramer says Arizona also has a plethora of good organizations that assist people with disabilities, such as the Arc of Arizona or the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities.

Yes, but: Kramer says her organization is "busier than we'd like to be at ACDL because there's still tons of demand for folks who are just not granted the accommodations that they need."

  • ACDL still sees problems with employers and government entities providing inadequate accommodations for people with disabilities.
  • Access for service animals is an area where Kramer says Arizona can be better.

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