I would like to start this post by (scream-crying into a pillow for 30 minutes) saying: here we are, we got what we got and we must move forward. Disability was a major topic during the presidential election. With it primarily being brought up after Trump apparently made fun of a disabled reporter and Clinton using it as a stepping stone during her bid. I wasn’t exactly happy with the concept of disability and the term “pre-existing conditions” being batted around to one-up one party over another but like most minorities, even if there’s just the hint if an opportunity to have your voice elevated, you take it.
Able-bodied people have always used disabled bodies as a way to show their lives are better by comparison. Now more than ever, disabled people will serve as a litmus test for the state of the entire country. As Republicans squeal with glee over the prospect of repealing Obamacare and the protections for patients with pre-existing conditions as well as doing away with Medicaid, Social Security and other government initiatives that directly impact the disabled, disabled people are at dire risk. As in the aftermath of Brexit, disabled people will begin to drop as they have to decide which diagnoses are in most need of treatment, as insurance companies begin to compute that euthanizing patients is better for the bottom line than treating them, and disabled people, feeling like financial burdens or “unneccessary feeders,” begin to take their own lives or have their lives taken.
There is some hope, however, the first is the nature of progress: regression is difficult because people cannot let go of what progress feels like. Second, the sheer amount of people who have decided not to let this happen is truly inspiring. Lastly, alliances are being formed between unlikely minorities to move the country towards tolerance and inclusion. It’s a short list, but it’s all I’ve got. The following are ways to be the best allies possible to those in the disability community.
1. No One Has Time For Your Guilt: We just don’t. We are all going through this grieving process, but it’s doubly insulting to have your safety and security taken away from you as well as have to hold someone’s hand and walk them through the same realizations we’ve been trying to vocalize for decades. Take your time, but don’t make us wade through your guilt.
2. We’re Not All Straight White Men: We make up nearly a fifth of the population and span every race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and expression, socioeconomic class and educational level. This means that while health care is vital to us, our interests lie with policies that affect race, job growth, LGBTQ rights, as well as many others. For instance: I am a black disabled female who’s aware of the crucial intersection of race and disability in the occurrence of police brutality cases across the nation, therefore a president that touts the (unconstitutional and not-at-all effective) use of Stop and Frisk feels dangerous to me and my family. (For more on disability intersectionality, follow the work of Villissa Thompson with #DisabilitySoWhite)
3. If Your Activism Isn’t Accessible, It Isn’t Inclusive: We understand that you can’t control the accessibility of most impromptu protests or civil actions but do your best to, at the very least, include disabled people in the conversation. It may not always be convenient, but accessibility to institutions, rights and services as well as activism is a human rights issue, not simply a disability issue.
4. We’re Not Here For To Inspire You, We’re Here For a Seat At The Table: Don’t infantalize, talk down to or minimize the voices of any disabled people seeking purchase in the current political landscape. Our concerns for our future are to be taken seriously. We aren’t decoration. Lift up our voices as we have lifted yours.
5. Support Disability Rights Organizations and Initiatives Led by Disabled People: Follow DisVisibility to learn what disabled people are most concerned about during this post-election season. #CripTheVote was crucial in mobilizing disabled people during the election and now serves an even more important role in elevating crip voices in local and state elections. I encourage any disabled people to share the organizations and initiatives in most need of support with #CripOrgs.
*feature image from Carlos Barria of Reuters