I was pontificating in front of a class of college students the other day, giving an impassionate dissertation on the painfully long struggle of people with disabilities for a seat at the table, any table, when I realized only four people were listening. Three were napping, a half dozen were texting on their iPhones, and the rest were just staring at me like I was speaking Chinese. The four that seemed to be listening were whacking away furiously on their laptops, appearing to be writing down every illuminating word out of my mouth. But, then again, how did I know what they were writing? I even stopped speaking a time or two to see if they would stop typing. They did, which made me feel good. Then again, I thought later, maybe they were hip to my trickery and played along accordingly.
Driving home, it occurred to me: Sure, they didn’t care, but why should they care? Unless they themselves are disabled, or their mother, or younger brother, what does disability have to do with their lives? Other “protected” classes, as they are called — blacks, Hispanics, LGBT (in some locales, anyway) and last but not least, women — have a significant group presence in society. Maybe they don’t have all the status and influence they’d like to have, but they have all exercised enough real social and political power to be taken seriously. When one out of three Americans will be Hispanic by 2050 and a gay man, Tim Cox, runs the biggest company by market value in the whole freaking world, then it makes sense for bright c