Disabled people get treated like they don’t exist

(The following excerpts are from the Herald and News, Sunday, July 19, 2015, Trish Seiler, Guest Writer)
How does a person become invisible?
It’s simple, really. Begin by a visit to your neurologist, who, after a battery of electrodes have measured your muscle strength, tells you to stop walking, stop climbing stairs and quit driving.
I knew this day would come, at some point my body would clearly tell me time was running out much more quickly than I had expected. When I received this diagnosis in 2011, I was not surprised. Every remodel I did or had done to my circa 1900 home was with this day in mind.
I have what I need: a home office and a separate bedroom/bath in the basement, a chair lift from the kitchen downstairs to access the driveway and my car lift, a first floor bathroom with a whirlpool tub for exercise, a galley kitchen and access to the front porch, where I can sit and watch the birds on their flyway from Upper Klamath Lake down the Link River to Lake Ewauna and beyond.
More importantly, I have friends and family who have helped me through this transition. Through planning, love and support, I will be able to “age in place,” using a power chair to meet my community obligations and a walker at home, eventually transitioning to a wheelchair when I can no longer walk inside the house.
I am not alone in this journey. The senior population in Klamath County and in Oregon is growing. By 2030, Klamath County will have an estimated 15,786 people, 21 percent of its population, over the age of 65. Similarly, Oregon will have 1,250,922 individuals, or 20 percent of its population over the age of 65. Also by 2030, Klamath County will have approximately 4,179 seniors and people with disabilities in need of care.
Now, the magic trick of invisibility: in my professional work, as a consultant to non-profit organizations and as a member of the Klamath Falls City Council, the change was immediately evident. Using a power chair since 2011, I have been ignored by people with whom I have worked for years, my comments either interrupted or discounted in meetings, as if my IQ dropped 40 points because of my now-evident disability.
There are shops and restaurants I no longer patronize because I cannot get through the doors or navigate my power chair through the layout of merchandise. There are meetings critical to my role as a council member, which I cannot attend because they are not accessible. This must change.
If part of our economic development strategy is to convince people to retire in Klamath County, we must be ready for them. We must continue to work on building a quality health care system for all of our citizens. We must provide access to businesses, restaurants, parks and other amenities these retirees expect. They have disposable income to spend, but will not spend it if they can’t get in the front door.
And, by the way, we, the seniors and people with disabilities of Klamath County, we’re already here. We spend our dollars locally, with businesses that cater to our specific needs. We are part of the fabric of our Klamath County communities, our numbers are growing, and our voices will be heard. Do not discount the power of our ability to change the status quo. We’ve already begun.