I went to my local Women’s March to protest Trump’s agenda of diminishing women and minority rights last weekend. I was deeply impressed with the turn out. It was exciting, and I do love the swell of community and excitement that comes from a march. So many people, so much community and support, lots of yelling. There have been other criticisms in other places from trans women and women of color, and I hear and respect those criticisms. Those don’t happen to be mine to make.
What is my criticism is something that I think is major, and watch out because I am about to get on a soapbox. DISABILITY RIGHTS WERE COMPLETELY ERASED. Time after time speakers would list off all the women that we needed to support, all the groups that needed to come together and organize as one. And not ONCE, not ONE SINGLE TIME did they mention disabled women. There was one speaker from the Deaf community, whose presence I don’t want to erase, but she did not speak on disability and did not seem to identify as disabled.
This is especially concerning to me considering the fact that the Trump administration has removed all mention of disabilities as an issue they are interested in tackling. When I search whitehouse.gov, the only mentions of the word “disability” I can find are in bios, historical information, and tour information. That is completely unacceptable, and just as the marches over the weekend expressed outrage over the erasure of GLBT issues from the website, they should be JUST as enraged over the erasure of disabled Americans.
Let’s talk about disabilities. In 2010, the Census Bureau reported that 19% of people had disabilities. I strongly suspect that those numbers are low, considering how hard diagnoses are, and how difficult it is to get a legal “disability” status. I identify as disabled, as I have mental and emotional challenges that majorly affect areas of my life from relationships to education to work. But there is no way that I was included in that number. While disabled people are a minority, we are a LARGE minority, and one that is incredibly vulnerable. Beyond our sheer numbers, we are also a uniquely vulnerable population. Many disabled people are not capable of coming to marches, or have extra challenges when it comes to contacting their representatives. This is a population that is sexually abused at high rates, is murdered at high rates, has absurdly high unemployment rates. Some of us aren’t capable of speaking at all. Some of us require constant medical attention. These are people who NEED SUPPORT. And with Trump talking about dismantling the ACA, these are people whose lives and health are in serious danger.
So it concerns me deeply that our needs are being erased. If you consider yourself a feminist, a social justice advocate, or honestly even a decent person, please remember disabled Americans when you are trying to stand up for rights. When you talk about issues, remember that disabled individuals are nearly always the first targets, and they are the ones who are least likely to be able to fight back.
In addition to the Women’s March, I am seeing disabled Americans forgotten by other groups and in other calls for justice. For example the Scientist’s March on Washington says in their diversity section “Science is done by POC, women, immigrants, LGBTQ, indigenous people, people of all beliefs and non-belief.” Notice anyone missing? We CANNOT forget the disability community as we resist Trump, so I hope that you will work with me to continue educating others about the dangers faced by the disabled, and about ways to help them.
Here are some concrete actions you can take to support Americans with disabilities, because disability rights are human rights.
- Contact your representative to say NO to Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. She refused to say that she thinks IDEA should be enforced, meaning that schools who receive public funding would not have to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disability.
- Contact your representatives to urge them not to repeal the ACA. Most people with disabilities could not get insurance before the ACA due to preexisting conditions. That means that people who needed healthcare the most could not access it due to cost.
- If you are part of any social justice organizations or involved in planning events such as rallies, protests, etc. please think about accessibility and encourage planners to ensure that ASL interpreters are available, there are spaces for wheelchairs, and (as much as possible), people with mobility impairments can access your space. Also consider having a quiet space for those with social anxiety, autism, or sensory challenges. If you want more information, WisCon does a fantastic job of accessibility and lays out most of their efforts on their website.
- Remember that not everyone who stays home from marches and activism does so because they want to or because they don’t care. Many people have anxiety, depression, an illness, or a disability that makes it difficult if not impossible to leave their home, to march, or to be around that many people. Don’t shame people for engaging with politics and activism differently than you do.
- Contact the White House to encourage them to restore information on disability policies to their website. When President Trump took office, his administration (in a fairly normal move) revamped the website. What is not normal is that they removed any mention of disability from the policies section.