For me, hearing autism and disability mentioned in the debate was the first time I felt each of my identities was fully acknowledged. I have listened to candidates discuss women’s issues and banter about lawyers and policies — all things to which I have a connection. But this was the first time I had heard about people with disabilities.
Still, achieving the milestone of recognition is not enough. The candidates’ answers fell short in addressing the disability voting bloc and recognizing our full potential and humanity as voters, citizens, community members, family members, parents, and workers. Yang’s repeated use of “special needs” alienated disabled folks, while Warren referred to people with disabilities as “the least of thy brethren,” implying a somewhat lesser human experience.
I too took issue with Warren’s “least of thy brethren” comment, feeling disappointed by candidates echoing their perceptions that people with disabilities are weak. Regardless of how complex our needs and levels of support may be, we are no less human than others, nor should we be seen as second-class citizens.
People with disabilities are strong from facing a world that discriminates against us, objectifies us, or perceives us as less human than our nondisabled peers. We are voters, we are community leaders, employers and employees, students, family members, parents, activists, and individuals capable of different jobs and roles in all aspects of our society. If the world (including the polls), were more accessible, we would ultimately be viewed as more powerful.
Going forward, presidential candidates must acknowledge and celebrate our human value. It will only inspire the American public to do the same.In the 2016 campaign, a number of posts discussed Trump's bad record on disability issues more generally. As his actions as president indicate, he has little use for Americans with disabilities.