LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Arthur Campbell Jr. doesn't want sympathy.
But, as a Louisvillian with cerebral palsy, Campbell has helped lead a decades-long public fight for equity for people with disabilities.
"It’s real slow work," Campbell, now in his mid-70s, said in a Thursday interview on Louisville's waterfront. Much of Campbell's advocacy has been recorded in the documentary If I Can't Do It. As his story notes, he once got out of his chair — to which he is quick to say he is not bound — and laid down in front of a public transit bus in protest. Though his tactics have changed in 2020, Campbell has not tired of the fight.
Campbell said he has been continually petitioning Governor Andy Beshear's top medical experts to ensure Kentuckians with disabilities are not overlooked for life-saving care when infected with COVID-19. He added that it can be difficult, at times, to get others with disabilities to fight for their rights. Many, but not all, he says, have been conditioned by society to allow others to do things for them.
Many Kentuckians need no reminder that the pandemic has attacked the workforce as well. That adds another hurdle for those with disabilities trying to break into the workforce. Cora McNabb, Executive Director of the state's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, said in an interview with Spectrum News 1 much of her time is spent trying to move employers past long-held stigmas.
"Sometimes it is about education and heightening awareness of employers," McNabb said. "Once they hire an individual and that individual is successful on the job, then they are more inclined to be open to hiring other individuals."
McNabb said the current employment rate of Kentuckians with disabilities is 29 percent.
"We have made some progress," Campbell said, looking back on his life's work. "But we have a long way to go."
For Campbell and McNabb the fight goes on, pandemic or not.