Editor's Note: The author, a Colorado resident and Common Cause activist, became disabled as an adult due to medical malpractice. Some of her disabilities are visible to the naked eye, while others are not, meaning her disabilities can also be considered 'chronic illness' or 'invisible illness.' To protect her privacy, she is identified here by her first name only.
Net neutrality matters to me as a disabled person because the internet is my primary source of socialization, entertainment, and news. I wasn't always disabled or chronically ill.
Most of my life, I was able-bodied and healthy, and I didn't have to think about access or lack of access to all the little things in life, like the grocery store or the basement level of my house. Now, I think about everything: What can my body do? What can I afford on my disability income? Will I be able to cook my own meals today or read a book?
Without the internet, I'd be devastatingly isolated as a disabled person. I've thought a lot about what it would have been like if I'd been disabled/chronically ill in any other era without internet, and the picture is lonely. I would have lost most, if not all, of my friends. I wouldn't have access to the simple entertainment that keeps me from despairing on the hardest days. I wouldn't be able to research information about medical resources that I desperately need.
Doing away with net neutrality could mean doing away with the affordability of internet access. Affordability might not mean much to you if you're able-bodied, have a job, and are working toward a promotion so that you can save for more creature comforts. But if you're disabled on a fixed income that's less than $1,000 per month, internet access and prices matter very much. Less than $1K per month is a typical income for a disabled person. From that amount, we need to somehow pay for everything.
For many people in the net neutrality fight, it's about an ideal, and that's wonderful. But for the millions of disabled, ill, and isolated Americans, net neutrality is more than an ideal: It's about affording the small laugh a silly puppy video gives us when we haven't smiled in weeks. It's about seeing our family's pictures when we're too weak to speak to them on the phone. It's about dictating an email and sending it freely when our hands are in too much pain to write a postcard.
For me and other disabled and chronically ill Americans, net neutrality is a daily concern that keeps our lifeline to the world affordable when there is already so little within our grasp. Net neutrality must be upheld."
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Media and Democracy
Tags: Net Neutrality