It's Time to End the Last Socially Acceptable Prejudice: Ableism
“Trump has been a tragedy to the disability community,” I said over coffee with a friend.
“Now I hate Trump, but that isn’t true,” he replied. Floored, I looked at my able-bodied, neurotypical friend as he continued. “Actually, Trump gave the stage to a disabled girl, Megan Crowley, when he talked about deregulating the FDA, helping your people a couple months ago.” There were so many things wrong with my friend’s statement, including not understanding FDA procedures, but most of all, that Trump helped “my people,” the disability community.
I remember it well, the night Trump paraded around Megan Crowley with Pompe disease. I felt he used her story, her disability, and her identity to his advantage. He honored the time-old tradition of using the disabled as a political tool to give him a better image and get more approval on a policy, which has been utilized by both liberals and conservatives throughout the years.
Trump has the national stage and could have done something like support Medicare and Medicaid expansion, will be investing more money into disability compensation or into increasing accessibility for wheelchairs and canes on public transit… but did he? No. He has done the opposite. And instead of listening to the outrage of the disability community, some have celebrated his “inclusion” based on using disabled people as props.
Honestly, there are pros and cons to loosening the regulations on the FDA, and if he had just done that, I would have been fine. But he made it seem like he cared about us despite appointing DeVos with her voucher program that you have to sign your disability rights away to be part of, supporting private charters that can discriminate against a child with disabilities and not allow them entry to the school; trying to roll back disability pay, cut Medicaid funding, and repel the ACA; appointing Neil Gorsuch, who has a terrible record on disability rights to the Supreme Court. He still hasn’t apologized for making fun of a disabled reporter (and much more).
The disabled community does not want your sympathy. We want your ears, your empathy, and your support to make disability rights an issue politicians will finally take seriously.
Here are some issues I’ve found that many disabled people really want tackled by politicians and American society:
– Combating police brutality against the disabled, since up to 50 percent of people killed by police are disabled.
– Increase employment opportunities, since the unemployment rate for those with disabilities was 10.5 percent in 2016, compared to those with no disability, 4.6 percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
– Full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; it is receiving only about 16-19 percent federal funding despite mandating the government fund 40 percent of the services provided for students.
– Close the pay gap! For every dollar a non-disabled person is paid, disabled workers are paid 63 cents.
– Stop making disability jokes and using gestures to simulate a disability.
We look at things like sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and classism, and almost every person takes those issues seriously. Ableism has been ignored long enough by both liberals and conservatives. Ableism is one of the last forms of socially acceptable prejudice, and it’s time to start taking this issue seriously.
Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.
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Thinkstock image by TopVectors.