Disability Issues in the 2020 Presidential Race

   In a shift that has become a political necessity, Democratic presidential hopefuls are giving unprecedented attention to disability issues in the 2020 election.

Nearly every contender, including front runners like Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have detailed disability policies in their platforms. The plans touch on how practically all national issues, from health care to immigration and education, affect people with disabilities.

    There has been a lot of talk about what group of voters could be crucial to the next election – white women, black or latino voters, working class voters. But people with disabilities have unique needs and are often left out the conversation.

    However, people with disabilities deserve credit for raising their visibility through the #CripTheVote social media campaign that started in 2015 along with continuous lobbying for disability rights, advocates say. “In 2017, we showed up in huge numbers to protest efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut the Medicaid program,” said Sam Crane, director of public policy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “This sent a message to political candidates that we are engaged, active and passionate about the policy issues that affect us.” If political candidates want to strengthen their campaigns, they should start listening to us.

    At the same time, people with disabilities are a diverse constituency, and that requires candidates to listen and engage. 

    For instance, it’s important that candidates have a system set up where people with disabilities can contact the campaign beforehand to have their accommodation needs met – from transportation to sign language interpreters.

   Despite the increased attention, there are still improvements that can be made. Being related to a disabled person is not interchangeable with an actual disabled person’s perspective.

    But on the whole, increased visibility “creates an opportunity for Americans with disabilities to bring their talents and skills forward to become part of the solution,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli of RespectAbility, a non-profit that supports disability inclusion. “I also hope that the more public dialogue about people with disabilities, the more people have higher expectations for what people with disabilities can achieve.”
    So let’s remember during this year’s campaigns to get out there and have your voice heard. Volunteer for you local candidates campaigns, contact your representatives and potential candidates and find out where they stand. Let’s get out there and  #CripTheVote!

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