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Echoes of a Gavel – AccessAbility in the House

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

On January 2, 2019 the U.S. House of Representatives welcomed Nancy Pelosi as House speaker. Not only was this her second time in returning to be the speaker of the house but as of today, she is the only woman ever holding this prestigious position. Making her the most influential woman in politics.

History did not stop there. The Senate pro-temp, the second highest position in the House of Representatives, is now held by Rhode Island Congressman James Langevin. As Congressman who uses an electric wheelchair, he has become the most powerful person with a disability in the United States Federal Government. The appointment was not glossed over during Congresswoman Pelosi inauguration speech. Congresswoman Pelosi introduced Congressman’s Langevin’s appointment when she stated that in celebration of the 2010 amendment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the House of Representative reconstructed its podium to be accessible for individuals with disabilities.

Watching on live TV one minority, a woman, lifting up another minority, a person with a disability, was a beautiful thing. Some may say that it was the Democrats doing what they do best. Setting politics aside, I believe at the very least the moment a woman comes into power, she looks toward the disability brother/sisterhood, was not an accident. After all, even in modern times, women are expected to take care of others. Its at the very least, the same thoughtfulness that lead her to bring all of her grandchildren to the podium with her.

During the turn of the 21st century women in the construction industry slowly reached to a little over one million. (According to National Association of Home Builders.) If that seems like a large number, its not. In fact it still means that women are largely underrepresented. When the recession started in 2007 and construction jobs were lost, women representation dropped by thirty percent! Creating a historical low and undoing the progress that was gained. (Id.)

The overall numbers of women in construction industry is not the most frighting number. Its what specific jobs that women do within construction industry. According to US Labor statistics, seventy-three percent are in the sales department or related tasks. Only three percent are involved in construction itself! Meaning that women are in almost all cases, not present when a home or other construction is done.

Its uncanny that the amount of accessible homes closely mirrors women representation in construction site jobs. According to a 2015 HUD report, less than five percent of all homes in the United States are accessible for individuals with moderate physical disabilities. Only one percent are wheelchair accessible. Like women representation, accessible housing is in single digits! Despite the fact that according to the same report, about one third of all homes could be easily modified to provide some accessibility. Debunking the belief that its too costly or complicated to make homes accessible. But it does not debunk the idea that individuals with disabilities can’t live independently and own homes. It takes a belief of what could be and not what is – a mantra that mothers pass onto their children. Therefore, could more women in home construction be the answer for more accessible homes?

In the current political and social turmoil our nation faces, it is important to shine light to progressive leadership. It is true that the House of Representatives wheelchair accessible podium sat unused and in the dark to its potential for eight years. Similar to a third of the homes available to be modified. That’s not the point. Instead, on January 2,2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proved that “if you build, we will come!”


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