Kathy Martinez on disability and marginalized communities

Industry leaders discuss business disability inclusion at the 2022 Disability:IN Conference

“It’s very important to point out that in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, the disability community was primarily led by white middle class folks who brought white middle class values to the fore about how things got done,” says Kathy Martinez, president and CEO, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA).

“The good thing is that more people of color are starting to be leaders. I was one of the few non-white leaders in the 80’s and 90’s. And now I think things are changing,” says Martinez who is blind.

WorkingNation sat down with Martinez at 2022 Disability:IN Conferencein Dallas.

When speaking about the work of DRA, Martinez says, “Like any other civil rights issue, disability rights is an evolving movement. Sometimes in order to make physical changes, or changes in how we do business, or changes in how we access the internet we have to use the law as a tool. The law can be a very important tool to make change.”

Martinez cites recent case that DRA won against the MTA of New York. She explains, “What we said is even though you’ve retrofitted the Metro in certain situations, they didn’t really increase accessibility for people who can’t climb stairs. We finally came to an agreement where I think 85% of the Metro will be accessible in 30 years. I know that that doesn’t sound perfect, but right now it’s a very small percentage of the Metro stations that are actually accessible.”

“This is a precedent setting case,” says Martinez. “People definitely pay attention to these kinds of big cases. I think as we win and people see the value of accessible transportation, accessible education, accessible employment, they see that it doesn’t just benefit people with disabilities, but it benefits everybody.”

Learn more about Disability Rights Advocates.
Watch more interviews from the Disability:IN conference.