Blind World Magazine

Baby boomers will change the perception of disability.

November 25, 2005.
Scripps Howard News Service.

There's a train wreck about to happen, and nothing can be done to stop it. All we can do is prepare for it and use it to our advantage.

The baby boom generation numbers about 76 million people, and they are rapidly aging. With advancing age, Boomers will increasingly be staring disability in the face.

This year the leading edge of boomers turns 59. Retirement will soon become reality. In fact, the Census Bureau tells us that between 2010 and 2020, people age 65-84 will increase by 39 percent (about 13 million people). And that number will go from 34 million in 2010 to 47 million by 2020.

The numbers are staggering and fast-approaching.

As they get older, Boomers will routinely experience a loss of hearing. It was recently reported about 31 million people have some level of hearing loss. Other ailments facing boomers will include vision impairments and difficulty with mobility. These latter two problems are projected to affect more than 30-40 million people.

Issues regarding accessibility will surely come to the foreground. Access to public facilities. Access to transportation. Issues faced in our everyday lives. As well as people with simple impairments who do not consider themselves "disabled."

We all fall under the same umbrella. Our causes and our issues overlap. But the causes of people with disabilities will fall on deaf ears and go unheeded unless an appropriate marketing approach is employed.

That's right. Marketing. Because our objectives are no different than those selling a concept or a product and turning it into action. Our target market may be a county commission, or a state legislature, or a local chamber of commerce, or mall management, or even one individual shopkeeper.

The tangible fruits of this marketing can take many forms. Automatic doors, curb cuts, Braille menus, accessible city transportation, access to public meetings or even to a house of worship. The common thread to realize these goals is public awareness. And that's how marketing concepts can be used to accomplish our goals.

The disability rights movement needs to blend with the causes of all those boomers who will join our ranks. It needs to become an integral part of the public's general agenda, and not merely a separately defined special interest group.

Because one thing senior citizens know how to do is to vote. And we do it at a much higher rate than younger people.

(Contact Allan Appel c/o Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, 1939 S. Federal Highway, P.O. Box 9009, Stuart, FL 34994, or e-mail at aappel223(at)

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